Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stay in LA: Sometimes We Have to Stay Here

I response to my last post, Bruce Postman from Columbia College Hollywood has offered the following counterview.

If you are from the L.A. area and want a career in the film and television industry, there are some very compelling reasons to stay in Los Angeles for your film school education.  While movies and TV shows are shot all over the world it is here in Hollywood that the majority of them are conceived, written, cast, shot, edited and distributed.  If you want to make films in the United States Hollywood is still the place to be. 
Internships have become one of the key ways film students launch their careers.  At the school where I teach, Columbia College Hollywood, almost everyone takes at least one internship, most take two and many have been hired for their first industry jobs off their internship.  Film students from around the country fly themselves into L.A. and put themselves up at their own expense in order to get these internships.  If you go to film school in the L.A. area it is as easy as hopping in your car or taking the bus to your internship.  Moreover, after the internship ends, if they like you, they might call you in for a day of work here or there before they commit to hiring you full time. This is possible if you are a car ride away. It is not possible if you are an airplane ride away. 
Networking for your career starts in college.  The pool of people who can help you is largest and most accomplished in Los Angeles.  Not only do you have the opportunity to meet more people who can help you, but there are more opportunities that they can find for you here.  If you go to film school outside of L.A. any meaningful networking will start after college when you move back.  If you start that process while you are in college you’ll be up and running in your career sooner. 
When you are in film school you want your professors to be working professionals. You want them to know how the industry works today.  The pool of people who are working in the entertainment industry is much greater in L.A. than anywhere else in the country. You will get the best and most useful education and guidance here.  Film schools in the L.A. area have their pick from the best of the best to teach at their colleges. I know that at CCH we have files of impressive industry professionals who want to teach. I know it is the same at other L.A. area film schools.  People with that kind of experience are much harder to find outside of L.A. 
Another way people get jobs is through their teachers.  At CCH, since all the teachers are working professionals, we often hire students.  I am doing a series of 10 educations films over the next year and my entire crew, production and post-production, are CCH students or recent graduates. And I’m not the only one. Steve Haberman, who also teaches here, was just nominated for an Emmy for an HBO Special with Mel Brooks. He hired one CCH student to cut it and another to do the color. Other teachers do the same.  We don’t hire students to be nice or to help the school. We hire them because we recognize talent and we trust them.  The pool of industry professionals who can do this outside of L.A. is much, much smaller. 
Because there is so much production in Los Angeles there is an abundance of equipment here.  At CCH we own a lot of terrific equipment (including two Red cameras and Sony F3) but we can’t own everything we need. We can, however, borrow or rent what we don’t own because of the abundance of equipment in town.  35mm cameras from Panavision, 3D camera rigs, and other expensive or hard to find pieces of equipment easily acquired here.  They are not so easy to find outside of L.A. The same is true for facilities and services.  We have more sound stages, cranes, actors, special effects make up artists, fight coordinators – the list goes on and on. 
Traveling the world is a good thing. It changes your perspective and introduces you to new people and views of the world.  But it is not a wise choice to move elsewhere for your film education. You will just move back here eventually and need to start all over. Save your travel for vacations and out of town film jobs. Stay here, stay focused and use the opportunities that are right in front of you.

Bruce Postman is a teacher at Columbia College Hollywood in Tarzana, California. He can be reached at

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