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Okay so here it, the blog post I've been waiting to write about for a while. Why on earth did I choose to go to film school?! Let's unpack it...
Let me first go over how I decided to go to college in LA to study ACTING. It’s always a tough decision for artists to decide to go to art school or not, no matter what you’re going there to study. I was actually just having a conversation about this topic with my boyfriend the other night and we both agree that there are definitely benefits to going to art school but it can also be a huge waste of time and money, only because there are so many artists who are successful without having a college education. So how did I decide to go to acting school? Well, it had a lot to do with the bigger picture. I get a lot of questions about this topic, so I’m glad to finally be writing about it. All the points below lead to how I got signed. Enjoy!
Picture: 1. The day I graduated. 2. The day my best friend (and roommate) graduated.
The cost vs The outcome
I looked at the costs and thought about what I could get out of it in correlation with my biggest hopes and dreams. If my parents are going to pay for film school in LA I better be going for all or nothing, so when I decided that I was going to move across the world to study acting for film and television, I also decided that I was going to be successful in my chosen field and that I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. School is a great way to form relationships, start networking, know the area and build a portfolio while you don’t have the pressure of GETTING A JOB/BOOKED. So in deciding whether or not to go to film school in LA, I had to decide if LA is actually where I want to have a career, because if not, there are plenty of other options that are less expensive and less densely populated with artists, in my home country where I could’ve studied. If you’re studying in LA but moving elsewhere to start a career, I would reconsider. Study where you plan on building your career, it’s a great way to have an upper hand as an artist once you’re out of school. Worked for me :)
This one is for the foreigners
The film school I went to was so accommodating to foreign students (I hope it works the same way with other film schools because it’s awesome). I found a place to live quite easily but moved after a short three months because I wanted my own room :-D (amongst other reasons). They were very clear on how we had to get good grades in order to be considered for OPT in our orientation about OPT. OPT is optional and the school helped us get this visa which is a working visa. You work only in the field for which you studied for a year (I’m not a lawyer so please do further research about this Visa). They also let us know about other visa options we had after OPT that we could look into in order to carry on working in LA. This was a huge help in getting me to plan for my future. So if you’re a foreigner, I would look into schools that are helpful and give you the right advice, but remember that ultimately you have to do a lot of research and work hard in school. I was accepted for my OPT visa and worked in LA for a year and knew that I was going to use that year to make strides towards having a good application for my artist visa (O1 visa). 1. Work that I did during my OPT year, student film. 2. My apartment which we used as a set for my short film.
What I did in film school that was crucial for my OPT
In film school I made sure that I got myself involved in as many film projects as possible. The college I went to had film-making students too (and producer students, animators etc). Getting some footage of yourself acting was a top priority as an acting student. I was involved in some good projects for the most part and had some great footage of myself acting which I made an acting reel from. This acting reel is a major part in how I was able to get auditions, an agent and manager during my OPT year.
Training matters when you’re an actor
I’m going to be blunt in saying this but it’s true. If you’re not a trained actress the likelihood of a successful career is very low. You have to have some kind of training and even when you have gone to school, you still have to keep training to keep your instrument (your body which you use for acting) fresh. This was a huge factor in deciding to go to school. At first I didn’t realise how big of a deal training was in this field but once you actually study acting, the respect for the craft, enjoyment of it and passion for it just grows in leaps and bounds. If school isn’t an option then find an acting coach and attend classes. Agents and managers look at this sort of thing and it matters a great deal to them to trust that you’ll be professional at auditions and be professional in how you handle preparing for an audition. Luckily my school had a few classes that alumni could attend to keep training, it wasn’t enough to do without attending another class or doing something extra, but it was better than nothing.
Getting a meeting with my manager and agent
I always get the question “How did you get your manager?” I always give the same underwhelming response, aside from praying “I googled him”. Seriously! Google is amazing, I learned so much of what I know purely from researching. The first agent that I had in LA was a commercial agent and she was great but I didn’t really feel like I was in the right agency, at first I was just happy to be signed, until I met my manager. I prepared a resume of all the work that I had done (including my training) and my acting reel and sent him an e-mail to which he responded. We met about a week later and he signed me. He then introduced me to two agents via e-mail and they both watched my acting reel and asked to meet with me, I chose to meet with one and he signed me too. What I like most about having a manager is that a manager wants to help you build your career so you do get extra attention (and we all know that actors love attention haha, I’m kidding. Maybe). After my OPT ended I had done enough work during that year (and the years prior, back home in South Africa) to apply for my O1 (artist visa) which was then approved for three years. Three years I will be sharing right here!
So that’s it! I chose to go to film school because it worked well for my situation and what I wanted to achieve in my career. Think of the bigger picture, make going to film school an advantage if you go. Be strategic in where you go to study and why, get to know the people and the city, there are so many reasons why you should go to film/art school but ultimately it’s all about your goals and what you want with all your heart. Of course sometimes things don’t always go as planned but I really believe that if you continue believing in what you’re doing and relentlessly keep working towards your goals no matter what obstacles you may face, you will achieve the outcome you’ve hoped for eventually. Sometimes I had no idea how to do a lot of what I did but I kept going and learning along the way. Thanks for the read and remember to say hello in the comments section, or don’t, whatever you feel like. No seriously! Say hi! Love getting to know those who are supporting my blog. Xx
In my next blog post I will be covering the topics:
Where I chose to live in LA and what it was like.
Following week's post - How to get around LA and save, whether you have a car or not.
The week after that - The day I hit the road and explored outside of LA.
So much more to come!
PS: Don't forget to follow me on social media. :)