Film Talk

Back to Film Talk...

Leave film school? (4 replies and 1 comment)

2 years ago
aaronhandler 2 years ago

Hello all,

New member here, but have read off of this forum for a good while. Honestly, the fact that Mr. Deakins even has this forum is beyond amazing.

I hate to have my first post be about this, but I honestly must ask the professionals. I am enrolled in the UCLA MFA in Cinematography program, and am finding myself disappointed by the whole experience so far.

Not only are the requirements for entry dressed up to look high (in reality, few to none of the students have any real experience in both the Cinematography and Directors students), but I feel this first quarter is providing a look into the future of this program and I am not liking it.


First of all, the people/faculty are very rigid; they do not bend like a reed in the wind, so to speak. The teacher will tell you you are doing something wrong with the framing if you decide to short side it (the directing teacher did not even know it was called short siding, and incorrectly uses "depth of field" to describe the space of a shot, for what it's worth), or if you decide to break the 180 degree rule, despite that the film/exercise still works regardless.

If you try to help out a student who does not know the sound equipment while you are slotted as the Script Supervisor, the teacher or TA will tell you not to, which just leaves the other student confused and no one is better off. 

As a note as well, I do not feel the faculty is very respectful, polite, or professional, including a few heads of the film school.


Furthermore, as a DP in the program, you will only come out with 4-6 films on your reel in 4 years, which seems kind of little. Perhaps that is because I am not as excited for the classes as I should be; from what I can see in the student reels, they all look the same, and plenty rely on outdoor shoots, which makes me wonder why. Of course having 4-6 films on your reel by graduation is still good, especially since they are shot on either an Alexa or Red. But if you're building a reel, couldn't you technically go get equipment and actors, light a scene the way you want that shows off what you can do, and just add that to your reel? And then use that to get work on fuller projects?

I am also worried about wasting my time. 4 years is a long time in a program, and from what I can tell from the other students' work here, it's not like UCLA has a secret recipe for how to be great. Yes, the classes help guide you, but isn't all of that information available in books, the American Cinematographer, the Internet, behind-the-scenes, documentaries, interviews, and trying it out on your own?

What really made me post this is that a friend of mine who is just about to graduate and apply to UCLA is worried he won't get in, so he sent me a sample of his work to critique, and it's better than most of the students here in the entire school, and he hasn't even received formal training. I am questioning if this program is worth staying in. I wanted to be able to use the program to make connections, but the students who have done well after graduation said they made their connections on their own without mentioning UCLA. And from what else I have asked, UCLA doesn't really help connections be made, unless I heard wrong or misunderstood or am missing something.

One caveat, this is only my first quarter here. I am going to try to finish out the year before I decide anything, although with the hours they are having me pull to get all my work done (getting only 2 hours of sleep a night, multiple all nighters), I wonder how that will go. I am worried about missing out on "the connections" you can make, but from the successful people I've met from the program, they said that UCLA didn't help them out really and they made the connections on their own.

Any advice on my situation would be fantastic, as well as any advice in general that you may have to offer is very appreciated. Thank you for your time, sorry for the essay of text.







2 years ago
dmullenasc 2 years ago

Shouldn't an MFA program be 3 years, not 4?

2 years ago

Says here 4 years:»

I've heard you can get out in 2 years if you really push it though. But then the point there would be to just get the degree not learn, I'm assuming.

Roger Deakins
2 years ago
Roger Deakins 2 years ago

I could not say film school helped me with contacts or with finding work but, for myself, that was hardly the point. Provided you have the money and the time, you can find your own way of expressing yourself by getting a camera and shooting. Where film school worked for me was in that it provided me with that time and allowed me to built confidence in my own ability as a film maker. Otherwise, inspiration is a personal thing. You can learn technique from a book or magazine and by watching other people's work. Camaraderie? Perhaps film school can provide camaraderie but even that is not for everyone.


1 month ago
TreySylas 1 month ago

To leave film school, people need to do something about writting» that they don't know about. If they can know about it from start, it will be great and we will see that things are same for all of us for sure.

3 weeks ago
JadeRose 3 weeks ago

Welcome aaronhandler. I have been learning a lot here and have seen a lot of different information on fake diplomas» and how they have been helping us with learning, The forums I get to see here has indeed been great for me, Have a great day ahead

Back to Film Talk...