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Career in film: Not all about the degree

Do you want to get into the film industry? Four film students discuss whether it is necessary to go through university

The job market is constantly changing. And the applicability of current university programmes for the real world job market is an issue. (See for example our report on the government committee’s recommendations on capping student intake for ‘artistic and aesthetic programs’ here.)

So if you want a career in film, what’s more important, learning the technique in school, or just learning on the job?

Four film students from different universities share their views.

Raquel is a student at UCPH: ”Studying film is useful for technical things but not necessary to become a filmmaker,” she says.

”As a filmmaker it is important to have good intuition and vision, which is not something you can teach.”

Constant rejection ‘a lot like dating’

Nish Panchal, is a graduate from London Metropolitan University and currently a film agent.

”[Studying at uni, ed.] was useful and it wasn’t. Nothing can really prepare you for work in the film industry other than actually doing the job,’ he says.’

David Baker, a graduate from the University of Westminster and a current film editor agrees.

”Unfortunately, I think education is now too expensive for creative courses where it is difficult to make a career,” he says.

“I’m just making £20k [DKK 180 000, ed.], many people I know who left education at age 16 or 18 are on much more than that and don’t have £27,000 [DKK 250 000, ed.] of debt. You’re much better off getting a runner job at an early age and paying your dues and working your way up.”

Joseph Williamson, a graduate from SAE in London and currently a PR agent for film festivals, disagrees:

”I have no doubt that what is taught can be enough for you to progress in your passion, however the expectations by students leaving university is too high. You’ve got to take the lowest jobs in film and be prepared to get rejections non-stop. It’s a lot like dating.”

All about passion

Film figures like Stanley Kubrick, James Cameron and Christopher Nolan never went to film school.

Raquel, the UCPH student takes this as her cue.

”University isn’t always necessary. Actually I think the best storytellers instinctively know how to tell a good story.”

Nish disagrees, and says ”It is definitely worth it. I understand it isn’t for everyone, but for me personally it enables you to grow academically and personally. If you’re studying film it should never feel like an effort as it’s so much fun. Why would you do it otherwise?”

But, in the end, maybe it is just passion for film that makes all the difference.

”Film school can help aspiring filmmakers find their voice, find a network of comrades and give them all a chance to make mistakes before ‘going out there’,” says David, ”but you can do that in your garage with high school friends too. Passion is the best motivation in life.”

UCPH film students show their passion

Check out the UCPH Film and Media students demonstrating their ‘passion’ in our Christmas countdown video series from 2012, where they submitted one short film for the 25 days leading up to Christmas. These are our favourites below:

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What do you think? Is your study program ‘necessary’ to work within your field? Comment below or email us at:

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