5

I am considering a Masters in Film Production to supplement my B.S. in Audio Post and 13 years experience of audio post for mainly TV. My ambition is to expand my repertoire and become more attractive to theatrical film sound teams. Lora Hirschberg graduated from NYU's film school and got work at Zoetrope...(shrug) I figure it can't hurt.

How many of you have gone to film school and how many of you think it is worth it?

  • Are you aiming to specialize in audio post at film school? There aren't that many programs with an emphasis in sound that I can think of (with the exception of Vancouver Film School or SCAD). – Justin P Mar 23 '11 at 23:35
  • I was thinking Film production as I feel I may have enough knowledge and experience in audio post that I feel I would better benefit from shadowing or assisting a film sound team member. But, I have no real understanding of the "film" medium or production process as I mix mainly for TV and independent film shot on HD video. I figure it would make me more attractive to film sound teams specifically verses TV/video and make me more attractive to film directors. I could be wrong... – Karol Urban Mar 25 '11 at 16:33
  • Well it would certainly benefit your career to learn about film production, as it is useful to know what has happened before the film is sent your way for sound work. My guess is that with your background, all of your film school peers will just hit you up to design and mix their projects. A way to learn for sure, but you can do that work without paying tuition. I'd recommend looking for an internship with a film post facility first. – Justin P Mar 25 '11 at 16:55
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Ill post mine, since I believe I have something relevant to add.

I have a bachelors in the recording arts, and a post grad in sound design. Both from two of the top schools you could go for such disciplines, Middle Tennessee State and Vancouver Film School.

What I know is that before I went to these schools, I was just a guitar player with basic knowledge of signal flow and that I knew something happened to the signal with stomp boxes before it got to my cabinet. What I knew afterwards happened to be years of theory, technique, practices of the industries, and a more rounded understanding of the business that I planned to pursue... and I was only 23 years old.

These schools will teach you the practices and techniques used in the industry right now. As well as new concepts coming down the road or just now emerging into the industry. US universities will be more geared towards theory and how it WAS done, in addition to knowledge grounded over many sub disciplines within the array of jobs that make up the audio industry. While tech schools will focus on the more current, yet leave out a good chunk of past practice, understanding of the industry from past to present - leaving a more focused gaze on a specific line of work once you graduate.

Yes you can buy books, read all the threads you want, re-design all the media you can find, and bug the living poo out of the people in the industry right now on all the basics, not to mention make a living within the industry. And you can be just as successful as anyone else.

However, what I do know is the industry is not what it was in the 80's. Or the 70's for that matter (Video Games) and DEFINITELY not what it was in the film industry. The people leaving the industry now found themselves in it before they knew what the job title was in most cases. You are just now getting the steady flow of graduates that are actually studying what they never studied to do in the first place. The amount of change that has occurred in the business practice, techniques of content creation, technology, and basically everything else to simply create the same art that was invented out of the realm of this type of media engineering is staggering. And whats even more daunting is that this curve that we follow on how we create this media/art is not linear. Its exponential. One may say that this is the reason why NOT to go to school for this type of deal, but I disagree. Its a reason to CATCH UP.

My point is, if your family isnt in the industry, and you never worked at a radio station or grew up working in a posting house, or had the luxury of following in the footsteps of a more knowledgeable person through an internship or apprenticeship AND/OR you have no past experience in this type of industry... I think its a good reason to go to school. Theres much to learn, and its just continually piling up on top of what should be known to work in the industry.

To sum up, and for people who have misunderstood my post:

I think schooling is good to condense many years of trial and error, others experience and techniques, and understanding of the industry in a shorter amount of time than what it would take if you knew nothing of the industry at all before you decided to pursue it. What you end up with is a very broad knowledge base, and the ability to pick a path within that base that you excel at, and run with it. Beyond the above mentioned points, it helps you figure out what exactly you want to do in life within the entertainment industry.

However, I feel with todays access to information - the material is out there. And if you have enough get-go in you to find and learn all of it - then you are saving a shit-ton of money. Go to conferences, join the societies, check out webinars and online tutorials. School is expensive. It can really make a dent in your ability to move into the correct area after graduation as its possible to have sucked your finances up. Many cons of the schooling option reside with the financial burden that can be placed upon your shoulders.

I agree with Utopia. It is learning by doing for sure, but if you can hack absorbing an enormous amount of information, practice, and get a hands on look with facing the amount of pressure that exists out in really doing the type of work that will be asked of you within the industry (not to mention getting into some of these schools' programs in the first place) schooling is one hell of a way to fast-track yourself up-to-date with much of what is out here now.

Also like Shaun says, if one already has the "in" into the industry, maybe you shouldn't go and try working a different angle. Its all up to you in the end. It could be easier for someone to slide in from the side than from the ground up.

If you go to school thinking you can school the day, party at night... you may find yourself on the short end of the stick. Only a very small percentage of people can pull that off and come out actually knowing what they are doing.

  • Did you happen to study under John Fishcell at MTSU? He was the audio post master at James Madison where I got my undergrad in Audio Post. – Karol Urban Mar 25 '11 at 15:31
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A few thoughts on this:

  1. if you have seriously been working in TV sound post for over 10 years, and want to move into film the issue may not be with upskilling, it may have more do with other issues. I am surmising so don't take offence but TV is regular work i.e. a series is 6+ months work and a facility can hire staff based on that scenario. In my experience film is predominatly freelance; 3 months work and you are effectively unemployed again. For me this is a benefit of the scenario but for many it is not.

  2. Forcing change is incredibly healthy. At some point we all say to ourselves "I dont do that any more, THIS is what I do" and your resolve is important. But also be very aware that these days education is a business. They will tell any number of lies/hyperbole to get you to sign up. When really, with your skills, one film as an intern/assistant is all you need to prove your worth and make solid contacts. But personality is as important as technical skills & creativity.

In your situation i would personally save up so you can sustain 6+ months of indeterminate income, and then find someone who is an experienced film sound editor prepared to take you on as an intern at whatever rate they have budgeted. That will be all you need.

Good assistants are worth their weight in gold, and rarer than hens teeth. (FWIW people who have no film credits & describe themselves as sound designers dont tend to make good assistants.)

  • And please be paid something at least somewhat close to the bare minimum compared to the cost of living... Or even a solid amount for that matter. So many editors/post houses these days want to take advantage of their assistants. For reasons unknown. – C3Sound Mar 24 '11 at 16:15
  • That seems logical and I can't wait to find someone to work under who can bring more insight to the process. Thanks for the great advice. BTW most TV mixing/design jobs I have held actually have the formal title of Sound Designer, as you are responsible for creating, gathering, and editing all foley and SFX. I look forward to the prospect of this being more of a daily team effort verses just on the occasional independent film job or dramatic pilot. But, in TV & video gaming at least, this appears to be a standard title. Is this different from your experience in film? – Karol Urban Mar 25 '11 at 14:52
  • With feature films Sound Designer is a head of department title, as is Rerecording Mixer and Supervising Sound Editor.... The term Sound Designer for TV has lots in common with Film, apart froms cale/budget/VFX etc... Game Sound Design I think is really a different field entirely – user49 Mar 27 '11 at 4:31
  • @C3Sound Good assistants are paid well - see the union rates for comparison with a sound editor on the Editors Guild site – user49 Mar 27 '11 at 4:34
  • Good to know. I certainly would not consider myself anywhere near a senior level person for dramatic film work of any scale. I see your point now. Thanks soooo much. – Karol Urban Mar 29 '11 at 16:12
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My two cents is this:

I learned everything I know about sound design and recording/editing sound effects by just doing it and reading Designing Sound religiously, asking a ton of questions on this site, and reading the blog of many great professional sound designers.

If there is anything you don't feel certain about that you know you will learn from going to a film school like the one you mentioned, go for it. But, I think you can absolutely get to where you want to go without going through school and learning on the job and from your peers.

I do know that those who have gone to film school that I work with each tell me film school was not worth it for them, that they feel like if they were just to work on projects and learn on the job they would have learned what they did in school - not one person I know who has gone to film school has told me "it is imperative that you go to film school - you will not make it in this industry if you don't!". That's an interesting statistic, I think.

But, ultimately it's your choice. No-one can make it for you. If you feel film school is right for you, go for it! It's your road map to draw and follow!

  • I know so many people who have hit up film schools and have realized it was a money scam - usually with privatized firms. – C3Sound Mar 24 '11 at 0:31
  • Audio schools can be a money scam too. Nobody cares about your SSL or Neve! – Chris Mar 24 '11 at 6:40
  • Haha I totally skipped those classes because they were useless for the emerging music industry - MTSU is no money scam however - very solid solid program – C3Sound Mar 24 '11 at 16:07
  • Pro tools classes are just optional classes - I think you have to be familiar with the course and course work to really understand what and how things are taught. You may describe many bad schools out there now, but remember there are top notch programs out there that aren't scams nor a joke. I think people here and in the industry need to realize that. It's a profession that can be taught and is being taught efficiently at good solid establishments. The best thing to do here is agree that both are valid paths. – C3Sound Mar 24 '11 at 18:10
  • @C3Sound Yeah, for sure. VFS and Full Sail I have heard a lot of good things about. – Utopia Mar 24 '11 at 18:16
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To me, film school was definitely worth it. I went to film school from when I was 25 years old until I was 29. When I started film school I had around 2 years of experience from the film business after dropping out from university (physics).

In Denmark, where I live and work, there is one national film school and a couple of private film schools. The national film school has a very close connection to the danish film business, with lots of guest teachers who are actively working in the business. So when you're learning how to boom or how to hide lav mics in clothes, the guy who is showing it to you actually knows how it is done, and does it regularly in the business.

The most important part of film school, the part that makes it special, is that you get to know a bunch of people at roughly the same age and experience as you. You get to learn together with them, party with them and fight with them, and these people will be a big part of your network for years to come. Today I run a sound studio with 4 suites together with 5 sound guys, and we all know each other from film school. We went to film school at roughly the same time.

I don't know how it is in America, how much it costs and how great the expertice is at the school, but I would go for the best film school with the best reputation and see if I could get in.

You have a lot of experience with 13 years of work behind you, so if you choose to go to film school, you have to choose a place where you can actually learn something. Talk to the teachers at the school before you apply to go there, ask them if they think you can learn something from them.

I'm glad I didn't have kids and lived in a cheap flat when I went to film school. Today it would be impossible for me to go to film school because I wouldn't be able to pay the rent and feed my kids and still spend the amount of time required to really get the most out of film school.

  • Totally agree, someone with 13 years of work behind them might not even NEED to go to film school. And it really is a good experience to have when you are young and able as well. – C3Sound Mar 24 '11 at 0:33
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Personally I think the best education for those interested in working in film sound should start with cinema studies and film history. If you are at all technically savvy you will be able to learn most mixing and editing systems. But having a knowledge of film history and filmmakers is as valuable or more valuable than your tech skills.

0

Knowing your background, where you work, and having listened to/watched some of the shows you've worked on...could it hurt? Possibly.

People like you and me, who've been working mostly in TV, probably need to accept the fact that we'd have to start near the bottom again. It's a different industry, with different workflow and team dynamics than we're used to. You already have the technical skills. What you lack is the contacts and the body of work within the industry. You might make them if you studied at a place like USC, but the two years spent there might be better served working in the grunt positions, making friend and showing off your skills...you might have to start in the grunt positions anyways after grad school. Since I know you, I'm fairly confident that kind of situation would piss you off to no end...and I'm not going to listen to Steve moan about your angst. ;)

You're in a different position than I was when I went to grad school years ago. I was transitioning from the live sound reinforcement world to recording and film/TV. It made a little more sense for me to go that route. I didn't have the skills or the contacts, I had to find a way to get a little of both.

Sometimes all it takes is a gamble. You're going to be making one either way. Figure out how to load the dice as best you can and go for it.

  • You would be surprised. I often take work without pay for the opportunity to learn (grunt jobs) and I travel to observe sessions and interview a great "sound" mind. That is why I am considering school again. While I do feel frustration occasionally in my work, typically this is when I am left to save a client who has been left with a hard deadline & uncompleted project because someone before me has decided it wasn't sexy enough for them & simply didn't care to give it a solid effort. I don't think I will ever understand why anyone would choose to start something and not see it through. – Karol Urban Mar 25 '11 at 15:44
  • @MixingManiac - Agreed. It sucks cleaning up someone else's half-assed work (what my job mostly entails...that or the people who just don't know any better, though those are easier to stomach). I know how dedicated you are, especially after talking about some of the projects you've picked up on the side. I just think you're energy might be better spent in the stage you're gonna have to go through anyways. Get it done earlier. If you want to do the education thing as personal growth (aside from industry entry), I whole-heartedly encourage it. – Shaun Farley Mar 25 '11 at 16:42
  • @MixingManiac - I enjoyed grad school, and it changed my perspective on several things in very significant ways that I would hate to have missed. – Shaun Farley Mar 25 '11 at 16:43
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My two cents after going to full sail and getting my AS and now almost finished with my BA in cinema television is this. You get out of it what you put into it.

The reason I went on to get my BA is I get a 75% discount and my job allows for me to go without any real conflicts. Also I do not care what anyone says about it not helping you advance. That's bs. It does open more doors, ESP if you go a corporate route. Esperience and quality of work do however go a long way.

You also cannot discount the contacts you will make in film school. Who knows where they might end up.

  • I also have a similar incentive as my job will supplement my education to a masters level. But unfortunately I work in DC, so the big name film schools are not local. I was thinking it would give me a bigger picture perspective of the film creation process and would help me make contacts. Where do you get a BA in Cinema Television? – Karol Urban Mar 25 '11 at 16:08
  • Regent university in va beach va – Ryanhdd Mar 25 '11 at 16:27
  • No way. I just saw on your profile that you are in Va Beach. I am from Portsmouth. We should catch a beer next time I am down that way to visit family. – Karol Urban Mar 25 '11 at 17:35
  • That would be very cool with me. Email me @ ryanhdd@yahoo.com when u r in town. – Ryanhdd Mar 28 '11 at 20:17

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