Skyline of Los Angeles.
It’s a standard and cyclical procedure:
Step #1: Prep students to be successful in Hollywood.
Step #2: Ship students off to be successful in Hollywood.
Step #3: Profit from alumni who are successful in Hollywood.
America’s best film schools are training budding artists to sell out — or “succeed” — in a rapidly evolving industry that couldn’t care less about transcripts or degrees. Just as a screenwriting student need not (and better not) attach her resume with her screenplay submission to a Weinstein brother, even six straight semesters of 4.0 GPAs can’t get a production student’s project funded by a Warner brother.
But in 2012, with cameras on their phones and YouTube in their browsers, students of showbiz are questioning the old doctrines entirely. Not only might they now be able to render dean’s lists irrelevant to their success, but they also might be able to render the Weinsteins and the Warners irrelevant as well. In a transmedia world trying to transcend Hollywood, some of today’s cinéaste graduates aren’t even considering the city so rooted in American cinema that it’s used as its synonym.
Trevor Silverstein, a film and television junior at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, doesn’t buy the narrative that “the pilgrimage to L.A. is an absolute must anymore.” After he graduates, Silverstein said he might stick around in the media machine of Manhattan, the up-and-coming film mecca of Austin, or even the city of Berlin, which churns out 300 movies every year.
“I hear a lot of people say that the West Coast is a must,” echoed Steven Smyka, a senior studying screen arts and cultures at the University of Michigan. “But the Internet especially, I believe, makes it very easy to gain recognition and fund your projects.” Smyka cited the popular crowd-funding website Kickstarter.com, which calls itself “the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.” Along with other crowd-funding sites like Indiegogo, Kickstarter offers a place for creative minds to raise public donations that fund their ideas.
Indeed, Ron Lubin, a digital post-production senior at Emerson College, recalled recently working for a company where he never met a single employer or co-worker.
“The company would upload footage, music and photos to a Dropbox folder with an idea of what the client wanted for their promo video,” Lubin said. “I’d edit on my laptop from my bed and send it back.” Lubin plans to stay in Boston upon graduation with no SoCal adventure on the horizon.
“Being able to gain an audience from anywhere with the Internet has allowed small companies to be successful and not make the West Coast move,” he said. “It’s a new world — you can go anywhere, and if you make something good, people will see it. Get a fan base and people will pay to see your work.”
And yet, Los Angeles natives and aspiring television writers Jenna Martin and Kate Ajnassian aren’t too convinced that the next media moguls can really “make it” from their East Coast bedrooms.
“While there are production companies elsewhere, if you prioritize working for a big studio, then you probably have to move out to L.A,” said Ajnassian, a University of California – Berkeley media studies senior and former intern at The Weinstein Company.
“My sense is that if you want to do feature-length fiction films, it’s L.A., and if you want to do fiction television, it’s L.A. or New York,” said Martin, a senior at Harvard University and former intern at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. “I might try New York first, but since my primary interest is fiction writing or editing, I sense that moving to L.A. is the smarter move.” Still, some students remain skeptical.
“L.A. is where film students go to die,” said Conrad Golovac, a senior at Boston University’s College of Communication, which encourages film and television seniors like Golovac to spend their last semesters in the “BU in LA” internship program. Golovac, however, has decided to ditch the program and take an internship at Greenpoint Pictures in Brooklyn.
“There is just something about [Los Angeles],” Golovac said. “It’s sprawling, big, overwhelming — sure, New York City is like that, too. But at least you can get around.”
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