School year in review

March 8, 2008 at 12:12 pm Leave a comment

With my first year of graduate school nearly done, I figure I should weigh in on my time.  First off, I read something online (Yahoo, I thnk) that had tips about whether or not you shold go to graduate school, and one of the things they mention is to NOT go if you hate your job or if you’re bored.  That is so very true.  I’ve realized that with the money you spend attending grad school, it has to be toward a very specific goal, and not something to do with you free time.  I started to question myself about attending grad school because one of the reasons I went was that I didn’t like my job.  But, I realized that it wasn’t the only reason I moved my ass across the country.

Anyway, I never figured I’d actually be attending an ‘art’ school, I was originally hoping to attend a more specific ‘film’ school.  ‘Art’ school implies (to me, at least) a bunch of hippie beatniks who draw all the time.  I can’t draw worth crap, so I’m actually amazed that I’m attending a school that is known for its fine art and graphic design program.  Apparently it’s also the largest private art school in the country.

So I had no idea what I’d be doing when my first semester started.  But it actually turned out to be awesome.  Every class that I took I felt like I learned something.  Well, every class but one (my Story class was basically telling me stuff I learned in my screenwriting class that I took at ODU).  My directing class was like a real directing class; you know, working with actors and how to run auditions and rehearsals and stuff, not like the directing class at ODU, which really was more like an extension of the Video Project class.  Cinematography was a real eye-opening experience, I got to shoot real film for once and how to edit old-school using a flatbed.  I am now of the opinion that film is way better than DV, but it’s so damn expensive I don’t know how I could ever afford it for a feature film.

Also, the people that I’ve met have (so far) been amazing.  Surprisingly, I’ve only met a handful of people that actually want to direct, they mostly want to do either cinematography or editing.  I also enjoy being around these people because we share a similar passion.  It’s inspiring to see so many people with such an intense drive to all do the same thing (and quite scary since all of them could potentially be my competition).

Now for the second semester.  Which sucks ass.  Hard.  Why?  I’ve noticed a major flaw with the way the Academy does its required classes.  Keep in mind, this is in no way critiquing grad school in general, more specifically targeted at the Academy of Art University.  I ended the first semester on a high note with a favorable impression of the school because I took some great classes that taught me something new and was about stuff I wanted to learn about.  This semester, I’m taking 3 out of 4 classes that I either feel I shouldn’t be taking, or feel like I’ve taken them before.

I believe that graduate programs should assume you already know something about whatever field you’re going to school for.  I’ve met a few people that are in the graduate motion pictures and television program, but admit to never having taken a film course before.  So that tells me that you shouldn’t be in a masters program, but in the undergraduate program.  I don’t mean to sound like some kind of elitist, but it’s like me saying, “Hey, I have an undergrad degree in Communications, with a minor in Film Studies.  I think I’ll do my master’s in Law.”  I have no basic foundation in law, therefore I do not deserve to be in a master’s program for law.

What I think the school should do for their grad program is to really look at the portfolios, and what the prospective student expresses interest in, let’s say cinematography.  If I send in a 5 minutes DVD of my work showcasing my cinematography skills, I expect the admissions people to either a) consider my work above average and advance on to second level film courses with a focus on cinematography classes (like Cine 2, some lighting classes, and basically skipping over the intro stuff); or b) consider my work average or below and place me in entry level cinematography classes.

For other entry-level classes that aren’t cinematography-related, but are still film related (like editing), I believe their should be a simple process to place out of them and move on to more advanced forms.  For example, I think I know enough to place out of an intro editing class.  I should be sat down in front of a computer, given footage to edit, and have certain requirements to follow like the 180-degree rule, eyeline matching, etc.

So where does that place me for my second semester?  I am slowly moving my emphasis away from editing to directing, SO WHY THE HELL AM I IN AN ENTRY-LEVEL SCREENWRITING CLASS, A FILM HISTORY CLASS, AND SOME CULTURAL ART CLASS?!?!?!?!?!  Ok, I have a class that basically acts like a film history class, of which I’ve taken 2 (maybe 3?) of for my undergrad.  I’m in a master’s program for film, I think they should assume that I know who the Lumiere Bros. are or who D.W. Griffith is or why Citizen Kane is such a great film.  And this screenwriting class?  Taken it already.  In my undergrad.  In fact, I think that my undergrad class was harder since we were required to write a 50-page screenplay (or the first 50 pages of a feature film), but in this class, I’m writing for a 20-minute (or less) short film.

The biggest offender of them all is this one class that is really geared toward the fine art people of the school.  It’s not part of the film program but it’s a general studies course, of which I am required to take 4 classes of.  It looks into the art of other cultures and how we can learn just by looking at art.  That’s all fine and dandy, but it is only indirectly related to my field of study, so I don’t believe I should be required to take anything that won’t directly help me advance.

The only class I find really useful is my entry-level editing class.  I already understand the basics of editing, but I like the class because it gives me some real hands-on time with Apple’s Final Cut Pro, which I now realized is almost the same thing as Adobe’s Premiere Pro (which is my editing software of choice), right down to the keyboard shortcuts.

Basically, if I’m spending four times as much on my master’s than on my bachelor’s, I want every penny I spend on academics to go toward film classes and film classes only.  All of this general studies nonsense should be reserved for the undergrad students.  I want the school to put a camera in my hand every semester and force me to shoot something.  I haven’t even touched a school camera since this semester started (I’m back to doing weddings again just to keep my skills sharp).  I know that my editing class is letting me shoot something on my own, but what if I want to shoot 16mm?  The equipment room does not let editing students borrow equipment.

So really, I don’t hate this school.  I quite like it, mostly for the people I’ve met and the experience of being in a metropolitan city.  I hate this semester for being made to sepnd money on classes I either don’t want or have taken already.

Oh, on a side note: I don’t know if this is true for all the Academy buildings, but the 79 building now has wifi for students.  FINALLY.  What the hell took them so long?  I mean, c’mon!  It’s a university!  How do you charge your students a ridiculous amount of money and not provide free wifi for them from day one?  Unbelievable.

Anyway, I’m still looking forward to the future and I know I will be enjoying myself at school more as time goes on.  I just think my money could be spend a little better, that’s all.

Crap, this post is long.


Entry filed under: Personal. Tags: , , , , , , .

She’s still got it (the body, I mean) Brawl, Baby!!!

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