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What are you going to do with that film degree?

Author: Hannah Grover | A & C Editor

The high-octane environment of film production by Vancouver Film School
The high-octane environment of film production
by Vancouver Film School

The U of R may not be Hollywood, but you’ve gotta start somewhere!

The process of making movies is mysterious to a lot of people. It’s something that can only be seen through the eyes of the actors and the behind-the-scenes special features menu on a Blu-ray (are DVD’s outdated now?). The students of M.A.P.’s film department are shown something entirely different. As their core training, they are taught the real ins and outs of filmmaking, and it’s definitely not as glamorous as Hollywood makes it out to be.

The students in this faculty work tirelessly to produce quality content every week and they are taught how to properly film, direct, edit, write, and act for a motion picture. Sounds pretty cool, right? However, what can someone do with their hard-earned degree once they’ve finished school? A lot of people seem to look down their nose at Arts and Fine Arts students, saying that their degree of choice is too niche and that they should’ve chosen something practical like accounting or advertising. Essentially, the most common “go-to” for anything “practical” is the Business faculty. Bleh.

The Dean of M.A.P. (Media, Art, and Performance), Rae Staseson, was nice enough to chat with the Carillon twice this week and she believes wholeheartedly in students taking something they’re passionate in, as it too incorporates valuable skills sought after by future employers.

“M.A.P. students receive lots of awards and get jobs, get into top grad schools, etc. People fail to want to believe this because we are constantly being told such studies are impractical. Not true, because we train our students to be opportunistic, flexible, collaborative, and they know how to think and work outside a box. These skills get you employed!”

When asked about the Film department and what it can do for a student, Dr. Staseson continued, saying, “I know one now who is very successful in the ad world. They are trained to be successful with teamwork and collaboration, plus they know how to do research and tell stories. Careers are in a range of media and cultural industries as a maker, producer/writer, researcher, and policy worker. Basically, it depends on if you truly intend to make film or broaden yourself and apply skills in a range of ways, working with festivals, event management, promotion, etc.”

Dr. Staseson was helpful in illustrating the variations of career opportunities available to students who graduate from the Film department at the U of R. She states, “I have former film/video students who are working in the industry as editors, shooters, producers, writers in Montreal, Toronto, etc. You need to work where there are opportunities. And two of my former students, who graduated at Concordia in Communications Studies in 2009, won the Oscar for Best Live Documentary Short in 2013!”

Wow, see? Suck it, naysayers.

But, what about the students at the U of R? Do they believe they’re given the right skills from the faculty to get work later on? We spoke to Ella Mikkola, a film student here.

She said, “What I have come to understand is that it depends a lot on your own effort that you put in during your studies. There are lots of opportunities out there, but you have to dig them out. They’re not going to be handed out for you. One thing that matters, too, is the area that you are interested in because future possibilities vary a lot, depending if you are interested, for example, in Hollywood cinema or experimental cinema. I’m not saying that there are fewer possibilities in one of these, but the way of working is different. What I have understood is that in the technical side (editing, sound production, colour correction) you are more likely to earn a living than directing your own film, for example.”

The Dean ended her interview with some inspirational words for her students.

“[Her students who won an Oscar] both work in the documentary world as producers and directors! If you want to be in it directly as a maker, you need to do everything you can to get onto crews, learn, and network. You need to write proposals and pitches. It is ambition and desire to get you there, but more broadly, you possess great skills to open up employment opportunities in a variety of worlds. When you can write, do research, communicate with skill, are organized, and can work with teams, and are not afraid to push the envelope/use your creativity to be a leader, I believe the world is wide open to you! Film majors learn all of these skills.”

About Hannah Grover

I’m the Arts and Culture Editor, as well as a writer when I’m not feeling lazy, outspoken feminist, and self-appointed cat queen.