Initially, I wanted to release this post right after I graduated BUTTT life got busy. Anyhow, I attended San Francisco State University’s Cinema MFA program from 2014-2017. It’s an extensive production program that guides you on your journey of filmmaking. As many of you all know, I am an aspiring filmmaker with the hopes/desires of becoming a television/film director and producer. Prior to this program, I completed my B.A. at UC Riverside in Media and Cultural Studies. Before graduation, I applied to three post-graduate film programs: USC, UCLA and SF State. I made the final round for USC but got into SF State, (GO GATORS!) Coming into this program, I had no knowledge of the university except my sister attending it ages ago (shade no shade).
The program is designed where you graduate with 2 films and teaching experiences under your belt. My first-year film was OK. I didn’t submit it to any festivals because it was not my best work. However, my thesis film was submitted to many festivals because I poured my heart and soul into it…for 2 ½ good years! Fortunately, I will be premiering at the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival and many more to come. I’ll keep you all posted!
Here’s a couple of key points that I learned along the way:
In high school and at UC Riverside, I had excellent time management skills…for the most part. Most of my work was completed prior to the due date and I had a pretty good attendance record. On the other hand, in grad school, I had an intense course load. Despite the intensity, I managed to maintain a relatively high G.P.A through God’s grace. I was able to get straight A’s and one measly (B) (let’s pretend that B doesn’t exist). Getting those grades were not easy. I had nights of tears or moments when I didn’t want to submit an assignment or too tired to go to school.
In grad school you have to prioritize your time. For me that meant if my family/friends wanted to hangout somewhere, I gently declined their offer. I’m not saying don’t have a social life, but you should definitely create a balance that works. With that being said, I made time to create a youth film program called Reel Oakland for inner city students that had a passion for filmmaking. I created this program during my last semester at State and started working since I had extra time.
Lastly, what motivated me to keep going was remembering why I started. I had to remember my passion and goal to be a filmmaker that will give people a sense of hope. Oh, and walk the red carpet too. Duh!
FRIENDS? NETWORKING? SOCIAL LIFE?
FRIENDS/SOCIAL LIFE: As I mentioned above, you have to prioritize your time by developing great time management skills. I have a great group of friends (I love them so, so much! <3) and I really tried my best to schedule time with them. It’s so important to make time for friends because they are GREAT stress relievers especially if you need to vent about classes, the craziness of graduate school, and everything else in between. Life can get hard sometimes and it’s so important to not live life alone. On the other hand, while I was attending State, I didn’t develop close relationships like “best-friend” statues because I wasn’t going to school for friends (I had to stay focused yall!)…HOWEVER, I did have one friendship that fizzled towards the end of the program….
NETWORKING: Graduate school is theee perfect place to network! To be honest, I shy away from the term ‘networking’ because sometimes it can be viewed as making fake acquaintances…well at least in my opinion. When I “network” I tend to create genuine relationships with professionals and colleagues with good intentions. The last thing you EVER want to do, is meet someone only for what they give you (that’s being a USER!!). Networking is definitely an art and it takes time to develop that skill, especially if you consider yourself to be an introvert. The best advice I can give is to consider networking as making friends instead of seeing it as “business” relations. When you think of it as genuine friendships, it really relieves A LOT of anxiety and stress.
WORTH IT OR NAH?
For me, grad school was definitely worth it! It helped me to excel in my career and taught me how to avoid film mistakes on set. There’s definitely an on-going debate suggesting that filmmakers don’t need graduate school BUT to each their own. Personally, I believe that obtaining a higher degree in your field of choice can be extremely beneficial. Not only does this increase your chances of networking but holds great credibility when applying for jobs too. If you plan on applying for graduate school, please consider research! Research the city, the program, crime rates, tuition, other fees, notable alumni, etc. It’s oh so important to know what you’re getting yourself into. Although I didn’t know much about SF State prior to attending, I buckled down and researched the university’s history and toured the campus. I soaked up as much information I needed to keep myself on my toes.Secondly, if you plan on attending graduate school but still unsure, contact the professors and faculty members to get an insider glimpse on the program you’re aiming for. Plus you will have the opportunity to ask as many questions that you need.
In short, I can only hope that my degree continues to drive me towards the goal God has set before me.
This was a fairly short post but I hope this helps you! As always, feel free to send me questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll see you on my next post!