‘Tis the Season . . . to Apply to Film Schools (Part II)

Last time, I talked about my top three choices: USC, UCLA, and CalArts. Today, I’m going to give brief descriptions of 4 more schools, some of them unusual choices.

CSUN (California State University, Northridge) – Cinema and Television Arts major: CSUN uses a pre-major system – meaning, you have to take a couple film classes before you apply to the actual major and they use your work/grades from the classes you took to decide whether to let you in or not. Once you’re in, you can choose different options within the major – including Film Production, Screenwriting, and some Radio & Television Production options.

What I hear/read most often about this program is that their equipment and facilities are brand new and state of the art (some claim the technical specs rival those of USC. In many ways, they do), but that the faculty mentoring system can be very difficult if you and your teacher don’t have similar creative opinions. Although I never really read or heard about their alumni outside their website, they actually have a relatively impressive (if short) list of alumni on their alum web page (http://www.ctva.csun.edu/AlumniMoversBlake.html).

I can’t really get a good feel for the location around the school. It’s near a high school and a library, but that doesn’t really tell me much.

The estimated cost per year for 09/10 undergraduates was supposedly about $4,801 in fees, $1,638 for books/supplies, $10,872 for room and board, and a few other expenses. The total cost comes to $21, 487 for those living on campus.

UCSD (University of California, San Diego) – Visual Arts: Media major, Video and Digital Cinema Emphasis, BA: I haven’t confirmed this, but a former student told me that UC San Diego had an actual film major based out of Muir College some years ago. All that’s there now is a minor in film studies. The Visual Arts: Media Major is based out of Sixth College (it hasn’t been officially named yet, but it’s considered to be the college for artistic types). All transfers are housed in a separate (brand new) living facility called The Village of Torrey Pines, but if I were a freshman I would probably be housed in Sixth. However, I should note that UCSD students can choose any major regardless of what college they live in. Transfers are not guaranteed housing for the first year, but if they do end up living in the transfer housing the second year is guaranteed.

From what I can tell, the filmic part of the Visual Arts major is geared more toward post-modern/experimental style filmmaking than Hollywood/narrative type filmmaking. But they do allow students to pursue their own interests to some extent. I’ve actually seen some really professional-looking student films come out of UCSD. Also, they have some pretty high-tech equipment available.

The estimated cost for undergrads for the 2010-2011 school year (for those living on campus) is $11, 330 for UC systemwide fees and UCSD campus fees (aka tuition), $11,522 for room and board. Along with estimated costs for books, transportation, etc., the total cost comes to $27,858.

UCSC (University of California, Santa Cruz) – Film and Digital Media: Like CSUN,  UC Santa Cruz uses the pre-major system for this program. Those admitted for fall are expected to take a couple of film classes during the summer prior to their official transfer and use that work they made during those classes to apply to the emphasis of their choice in fall. Their production emphasis is, apparently, highly competitive.

When I saw the film department, about 9 years ago, their facilities and equipment were dismal. Since then, however, a large influx of bond money has been used to build new facilities and buy new equipment. These include “a surround-sound screening theater, a large ‘green-screen’ studio, a computer lab, seminar rooms, individual editing suites, and a sound recording and editing room.” You can see photos and descriptions here: http://film.ucsc.edu/program/facilities

Santa Cruz is a place I’m actually quite familiar with. UCSC itself is mostly surrounded by a redwood forest, with pretty yellow banana slugs (the school mascot). The rest (especially around College 8, is empty land that used to be a farm. Assuming that no major landscaping has taken place, the forest near the art area of campus is marked by a toilet surrounded by a circle of flatware rammed into the ground. It’s been there ever since I can remember. There are people living in the trees around campus, but those are usually just eccentric students. A ways down the street is several mini strip-malls and several surf shops. At the end of the road is a surf spot where silly people usually try to catch waves too close to the rocks and get bonked around a bit. There has recently been an increase in gang-related crime from twits that invade every once in a while from other places, usually places like San Jose or Salinas, but every time I’ve visited in the last couple of years the most threatening thing I’ve seen is the occasional stoner (drug user) stumbling around. Overall, I don’t think UCSC’s in a particularly bad area.

Now, about cost: Yearly estimated cost for 2011-2012 is $12,654 for fees, $14,610 for food & housing. Along with estimated costs for books, transportation, etc., the total cost comes to $32,250 for those living on campus. I kind of have to wonder why UCSC costs more than UCLA.

HSU (Humboldt State University) – School of Theater, Film, and Dance, Film Emphasis: Okay, yes, they’re not in Los Angeles, San Diego, or even San Francisco; but they have a couple things going for them. For one thing, their program integrates theater, film, and dance together into a single BA program. How cool is that! Well, I think it’s pretty cool anyway. You can choose an emphasis in film or do an interdisciplinary degree that combines all three programs. Admittedly, like UCSD, HSU’s film program is probably best for those who want to be experimental/art filmmakers. This is probably also a good place for those who want to become nature documentarians. Those seem to be the areas from which their faculty hail. However, HSU also has the Humboldt Film Festival – supposedly the first student-run film fest in the world – and students get credit for participating in the festival.

They don’t go into much detail about their facilities on their website. The description is as follows: “Our program is supported by traditional filmmaking packages in Super-8 and 16-mm. We have re-photography facilities, a sound studio, on-site 16-mm and Super-8 telecine capabilities, and digital post-production studios with film matchback capabilities […] we have a modest collection of digital video equipment available.”

HSU is located in Arcata, next to Eureka. The surrounding area is largely redwood forests, beaches, mountains, and lakes. If you’re an outdoors nut, it’s a great location (except for the mosquitos in the summer and the rain all year round). Organic food is pretty easy to come by because the big grocery store in town, the Arcata Co-op, is highly health food oriented. The last time I visited, around 1997, the forests had a few odd varieties of poison oak here and there, but hopefully it hasn’t taken over the place.

The registration fees at HSU come out to $2,876 per semester ($5,752 per school year). Housing varies from $5,302 (lowest double room rate) to $7,160 (highest single room rate) per year. With a meal plan, it varies from $7,554 (triple room with “green meal” plan) to $12,436 (highest single room rate with Humboldt meal plan). In total, about $11,054 to $18,188 per year.

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