Our friends over at ShareGrid, the "Airbnb of cameras" and a pioneering force in the peer-to-peer rental market, are starting up an interview series with notable members of their rapidly growing community. Few are more notable than Kyle Patrick Alvarez, an indie filmmaking rockstar whose last two feature films have been massive hits at Sundance, and whose latest feature The Stanford Prison Experiment is currently in limited release before hitting theaters nationwide.
We're going to be sharing several of these videos over the next few weeks, and they'll cover everything from how to go about making your first feature, to how to adapt literary pieces for the screen, to how Kyle made The Stanford Prison Experiment. Today's episode, however, revisits one of the central debates surrounding film education: is film school really worth it?
Most everyone, it seems, has a strong opinion about the film school question. Some will ardently argue that film school is the biggest waste of time and money in the entire history of mankind, while others insist that film school was one of the best investments they've ever made. Kyle takes a more nuanced approach. It's all about the individual and their unique ambitions, and then assessing whether the available education options will help them meet those ambitions, he says.
A film school graduate himself, Kyle admits that his education was a great experience and that it helped him mature as both a person and a filmmaker, but that it was far from perfect. Many traditional film schools focus heavily on intellectualizing the artistic aspects of filmmaking, which can be helpful to a certain extent, but when that comes at the expense of learning about the practicalities and sobering realities of what it takes to produce a narrative film from start to finish, then you're not really getting a filmmaking education that will help you in your future endeavors.
With that said, there's one consideration that should trump all others if you're considering film school, and that is debt. You might be completely sold on the idea of film school, but if you need massive student loans to afford it, I can't urge you hard enough to reconsider. While some people make a healthy living in the film industry, many others do not. When you're living from paycheck to paycheck and gig to gig, tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt is the last thing you want to be saddled with.
Ultimately, film school can be a great experience, or it can be a waste of resources. If it's something that you're considering, take the time to weigh the options and figure out if there are any tangible benefits you can get from film school that would be hard to get through any other means. And most importantly, figure out if you can afford it.
Stay tuned for the next episode of ShareGrid's interview series, in which Kyle will talk about his experience with making his first and second features. And definitely go check out ShareGrid's site and sign up to be notified when the company expands to new cities.