Saturday, April 5, 2008

Is TV school worth it?

I sometimes say I went to film school, though technically my degree is in Television/Radio. "TV school" just sounds kinda silly, I guess. Lovely reader Kate wrote in and asked if I would recommend she pursue a degree - or at least take classes - in TV writing. I apologize in advance for my answer: Yes and No.

If you are just graduating high school and choosing your college major, go ahead. Get your degree in TV like I did. It seems crazy to spend (or have your parents spend) upwards of $140,000 so you can be miserable taking engineering or biology. That being said, I hope you take the opportunity to explore all kinds of subjects that interest you in college. I originally began as a Journalism major, because I had been writing for The Buffalo News all through high school and it didn't occur to me, as a teenager in a snowy suburb, that I could write things for actors to say on TV. My college (Ithaca College) required that Journalism majors pick a minor outside of the Communications school, under the notion that beyond learning to write in your J classes, you ought to have something to write about. And I think the same goes for TV writing - I have no plans to be a doctor or a lawyer like the TV Lit deptartment head suggested, but it's good to have something to write about. Anyway, my writing classes were all great and I learned a lot about writing as well as giving and receiving notes (a HUGE part of the process). My school also had a satellite school in LA, which allowed me to study here, intern, test out the city and get a feel for what Hollywood was really like - something you can't really do atop a hill in the wine country of central New York.

But if you've already got a degree framed on your wall? Nah, I wouldn't go back to school for TV writing. Sure, you're going to have some catching up to do - but you can learn a lot from reading books, blogs and scripts, and from watching TV. If you have directing aspirations, that's different, and there are some great grad programs with major Hollywood connections that allow you to make films. But for those of us who contain all our vision in Courier, I would skip grad school. If you just want a class or two, you can take some through UCLA extension. In fact, fellow blogger Josh has recommended them. You just have to decide if the deadlines and guidance are worth paying for.

When making your decision, know that nobody is really going to care what's in the frame. I'm glad I went to school for TV, but A) I was on scholarship and B) MANY (if not most) people who make it in this industry do not go to school for it. What's really important is not your schooling but your script.

4 comments:

Dwacon® said...

Jane turned me on to your blog. Good stuff. Keep the faith!

Emily Blake said...

I would also add that to become a director you also don't necessarily have to go to school. That's one of the great thing about the film industry - you can learn it all just by doing it.

adam _______________________ said...

I think it's also worth knowing that, with some in the industry, there's actually a bias against graduate degrees. I had a grad degree, and over the past few years, I've had people tell me that I'm overqualified for some of the entry level positions I've applied for -- and grad degrees don't give you any sort of special privileges to jump levels. So it's a catch-22.

I've also had two people recommend that I take it off of my resume. Some people also automatically assume that you feel your degree affords you some kind of entitlement.

My advice would be that if you personally want to go to grad school, do it. But if you're just looking for a way into the industry, then read Amanda's blog and follow suit. Move to LA, get an entry level job that'll help you move up in whatever area you want to work in, put in your time, and key your eyes and ears open and network and learn learn learn.

I enjoyed a lot about grad school (I went to Northwestern for film production and screenwriting), but I often wish I'd just come out to LA at 21.

As for undergrad, it doesn't matter in a lot of fields what your undergrad degree is -- just get a degree. Study something you care about -- and keep writing.

adam _______________________ said...

I think it's also worth knowing that, with some in the industry, there's actually a bias against graduate degrees. I had a grad degree, and over the past few years, I've had people tell me that I'm overqualified for some of the entry level positions I've applied for -- and grad degrees don't give you any sort of special privileges to jump levels. So it's a catch-22.

I've also had two people recommend that I take it off of my resume. Some people also automatically assume that you feel your degree affords you some kind of entitlement.

My advice would be that if you personally want to go to grad school, do it. But if you're just looking for a way into the industry, then read Amanda's blog and follow suit. Move to LA, get an entry level job that'll help you move up in whatever area you want to work in, put in your time, and key your eyes and ears open and network and learn learn learn.

I enjoyed a lot about grad school (I went to Northwestern for film production and screenwriting), but I often wish I'd just come out to LA at 21.

As for undergrad, it doesn't matter in a lot of fields what your undergrad degree is -- just get a degree. Study something you care about -- and keep writing.