The entertainment industry is filled with rags-to-riches stories.
While still in college, Steven Spielberg got an unpaid internship at Universal Studios. His work so impressed the Universal executives, he dropped out of college and was a director by the time he was 21 years old.
Kevin Smith has a similar biography. While in film school, he shot “Clerks”, financing the $27,000 production budget himself, maxing out all of his credit cards and selling his comic book collection. The film was seen by Harvey Weinstein at the Sundance Film Festival. And the rest is history.
Both of them were underperforming students. But, they are both natural talents. It was the natural talent that carried them into stardom. In Hollywood, a college degree is trumped by talent, and the willingness to do whatever it takes to get noticed.
In today’s world, we place and enormous amount of emphasis on grades, and a 4 year college degree. I don’t want to marginalize the importance of them, but they are not an automatic ticket to success. It’s actually becoming quite the opposite. The debt incurred getting that degree is actually confining. It creates the need for the students to take whatever job they can to pay it back. The majority of time, the degree is not even in the field that the student ends up working in. They are so focused on paying back the loan, that they cannot afford the time to pursue their talents and passion.
In the production field, there are so many jobs that don’t require a 4 year college degree. Certifications, special classes, apprenticeships and actual on-the-job training are all that’s needed. There is a movement in the education field to stop pushing everyone into a 4 year degree, and help guide students into fields they be more suited for, that don’t require the time and expense of a 4 year degree. The entertainment field is one of those that offers a great number of positions that don’t require advanced education.
One place to get the kind of skills required for audio/video production work is the local community college. There are many states that have a vibrant and expansive community college system. They all teach audio and video production, including engineering, lighting, set building, camera work, digital arts, and other various skills. A student can get gain experience in these kinds of positions, and come away with a 2 year degree, or a certificate where one is offered. And, with a total cost of well under $10,000 in most states, it is affordable for most everyone.
Instead of investing 4 or 5 years, and over $30,000, these students can enter the work world in 2 years or less, and start earning a living, without being saddled with debt. And they will enter the job market with solid skills, making them valuable members of a production team.
As educators, we need to start to direct our students to the best place for them, and that is not always at a 4 year institution. There are many alternatives, both public and private. A 4 year degree is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Help your students find their life’s work by guiding them to the place that best suits their needs and talents.
Perry Goldstein is an electronic industry veteran, with experience in the consumer, Pro AV, and broadcast fields. Perry is also a widely published writer and speaker for the electronics industry. He is a guest lecturer in the California Community College system, specializing in Digital Marketing. He is also a volunteer at Friendship Circle, and organization serving the special needs community.