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What’s Better to Get a Job in the Film Industry: Degree or Experience?

01/06/2012

As an aspiring film director or film producer, you might be asking the question: What’s better to get a job in the film industry? Degree or experience? With many professions, a degree definitely looks better on your resume, because it means you’ve invested the time and money to learn what you need to know. With some professions (like medicine or law), a degree is absolutely mandatory. With the rise in film school programs at colleges and universities, it’s becoming an assumption that this is the case for the film industry, as well.


But the fact is, the film industry is a whole different animal, with no set pathway to success. For every successful film director who went to film school, you can find some other successful film director who didn’t. The same holds true with producers, editors, production designers, etc. Apparently, getting a degree in film is not mandatory to get a job in the film industry, because people with little or no academic experience get hired in this business all the time.


That said, the question remains: does having a degree improve your chances for getting a job in film? Or is it better to be able to show what films you’ve already worked on? What’s better to get a job in the film industry: degree or experience?


Here’s the reality of the film business: experience will trump a degree every time.


The film industry is a very practical, hands-on business. It also happens to be a highly entrepreneurial business. It takes millions of dollars to make a movie, and for every movie made there has to be individuals or corporations willing to risk millions on it. This means that when it comes time to hire people to make the movie, they want to keep their risks low. They want people whom they know can do the job well, not people who can flash a college degree. Someone who has no degree but who worked on a string of successful films will have a much better chance of landing the job than someone who graduated film school but hasn’t worked on any films.


This presents a catch-22: how do get a job without experience, but how do you gain experience without a job? Some film schools solve this problem by arranging for unpaid internships for their graduates, but you could theoretically gain the same experience simply by doing your own internship. This is why some film schools now use the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach to learning. Instead of using campus classrooms, these schools actually place their students in real film production companies to be trained on actual film sets. This approach gives students both the education and experience they need, giving them a much better chance at landing those jobs.


So, what’s better to get a job in the film industry? Degree or experience? The truth: you could do without a degree, but you can’t do without experience.

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