Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Should You Go to Grad School? UPDATED

The following is the result of two separate conversations with hiring managers at a small production company and major studio and REFLECTS THEIR OPINION. This is obviously far from the ideal world Hollywood Intern Diaries would like, as graduate students are very intelligent and just as, if not more, qualified for intern-level and entry-level work. This article is intended to bring this hardly talked about stigma against grad students in the entertainment industry to light in order for students to make informed decisions about grad school and their future.

Should you go to Grad School? It’s a question many recent grads ask themselves when  confronted with the dismal entry-level job market. Especially with graduate enrollment at an all time high!


And here’s the thing... don’t do it.




If you have already graduated from a film degree program, it is not necessary to attend grad school. Many Hiring managers in the entertainment industry may even see this as a bad thing, as if you are avoiding the job market by attending school. While attending grad school in other industries can improve your chances of success, the somewhat prideful entertainment industry suffers from ageism and a slight superiority complex.

Hollywood practices “agism”, anyone can see that. Writers who reach a certain age don’t get hired, actresses are “old” at 40, and grad students are no different. Youth is the name of the game in Hollywood, especially considering most college grad’s hired by the major studios get hired in year-long programs or internships (i.e. The Page Program). Unfortunately, Twenty-five year olds just starting their career are unlikely to be offered these potions and will not have the work experience necessary to compete for management roles. Although, this is also two fold, twenty-one year olds with loads of internships and even two-three jobs- are unlikely to be offered management positions.

One hiring manager I talked to was under the impression that grad students have a false sense of superiority due to their intensive study of film. I asked him about this when I witnessed him throwing away every grad student resume into the trash during intern application season. His example was this, " a 22 year old film school graduate will be much more likely to have a good attitude about sweeping the glitter off the sound stage than a 25 year old graduate student with a Masters in Film Production." Now this was for an assistant internship, mind you, so there was a good number of tasks like getting lunch, turning on lights in an execs house, and lots of cleaning.

However, there are good times to go to graduate school:

1. Your chosen department in Entertainment requires further schooling.
This applies to a select few departments such as the Legal Department (Law School), HR (a graduate degree helps due to its specific nature), and Research positions in PR and in house Advertising Agencies.


Even on the business development track, you do not need to attend graduate school. Most large companies will pay for you to attend grad school once you are promoted to coordinator level. That is why your boss has a masters and maybe one day you will too.


2. You are completely changing careers and your college degree is worthless now.
So you majored in Mathematical Reasoning in College and now all you want to do is sound design for Film and Television. Now, the audio systems and programs used in the Film/TV industry are complex, complicated, and have a finite amount of operators. This is a good example of a time going back to school would likely have a very positive impact on your job prospects, especially if you spend every weekend working on student and independent films. You can also consider a certificate program (New York Film Academy) due to it’s lower cost and focus on on-set experience.


Conclusion


My advice, throw away the grad student brochures if you already have a film degree. Many film degree programs at the major film schools share class structure between graduate and undergraduate classes. Due to this, you are unlikely to learn much more than you learned in undergraduate- provided you follow the same track (i.e. Cine Major, Cine Grad). I encourage you to enter the work force as you are already very qualified with a degree in film. Apply to 10 positions you are qualified for and work very hard on perfecting the applications. You have internships under your belt and therefore you are already more qualified than the Ivy League Business School Graduate trying to make it in LA. Doesn’t that make you feel good?

If You Are a Grad Student

If you are a grad student and one of the two things above applies to you, you honestly have nothing to worry about. 

Even if you are a dual degree film student (as in you have two similar film degrees), you're passion, drive, and internship experience will propel you past the stigma. Just don't get hung up on the idea of assistant level tasks. Many major studios offer internships JUST FOR grad students and the stigma is found more in the agency/ small production companies areas of the industry. In my experience, IT, Computer Science, Interactive, Digital Media, PR, AD, and HR departments don't subscribe to this idea at all. Along with most major companies who agree there is no truth to this stigma. Just like the stigma against English majors- all of which could be PERFECT for and passionate about the position.



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© No Experience Required Maira Gall.