Anything Goes : Schooling or Experience by Natalie Villa

Natalie Villa

Schooling or Experience

I have been having quite difficulty lately with finishing school and I am becoming real discouraged. I was just wondering what everyone's opinion is whether the degree is as important as experience? Is a degree necessary and/or worth it? Thanks :)

Mark Schaefer

get a degree, it opens many doors to even apply for jobs that pay more than average.

Lina Jones

From personal experience its always good to have that paper it sets you above the rest. What if you go on an interview and the other person your competing with has their degree.... its times like that you're gonna wish you would have finished. Go For It!

Janet Scott

Good advice guys... finish it.... and then go forward.... You will be proud of your achievements.

Janet Scott

You can only ADD To them from THERE.

Natalie Villa

Thanks guys! I really appreciate all of the advice. I guess I'll just keep trucking at it. Thanls you have made me feel much better about it!

Adam P. Murphy

Smart actors will always work more and you should never stop studying. You also have to remember that you're starting your own business, not just a career. The ability to speak and write at a high level of skill and comprehension is very important. Plus, who's going to represent you if you if the short cover letter accompanying your head shot is loaded with spelling and grammatical errors? Also, if all you want to do in life is act, a graduate degree in performing arts could be a huge benefit (I only have a BA, sadly), but you need that undergrad degree first.

Natalie Villa

Thanks Adam and Crystal. Not quite an actor but definitely understand what you are saying Adam. Thanks Crystal that was my thought initially, as well. :)

Tabitha Baumander

Its a headache but I agree with Crystal. You are going to need a day job and the day job world tends to like diplomas. Grit your teeth and get the piece of paper. You are young for a painfully short period of time and its far easier to do your schooling young than otherwise.

Tim Chisholm

One can collect as many pieces of paper as you like. For me it is all about life experience.

Christopher J.hines

Follow your heart.

Brendan Thatcher

As amazing as experience is, you should always have a fallback plan in case your dreams don't pan out. A degree will help you earn a sustainable income while you pursue your passions. Minimum wage in retail is not a good fallback plan.

Parker Reeve

Depends on the career. I want my doctor to have a degree. i don't care if the writer, director or actor of a movie has a degree. There is no "fall back" plan. If I had one I would have fallen back several times. I didn't so I couldn't. Crazy? According to my parents - but I'm glad I don't have one. and I don't have a degree in anything. Never been asked when I'm looking for work in the camera dept.

Brendan Thatcher

Granted, you don't need a degree to work in some capacity of film production. A writer, director, and actor don't need degrees. And yes, the pressure of not having something to fall back on is a huge motivator to continue following your dreams. I would caution, however, for every success story out there, there is someone else who has lost it all to follow their dreams and is destitute (or even worse has moved back in with their parents!). All joking aside, a lot of successful film makers out there come from families with money and did not have to worry about paying bills while learning film. There are always exceptions to the rules, and everyone has a different story and path that they took to get where they are. Statistically speaking though, the median income of those with a degree is higher than those without. But again, there are exceptions to this rule. But I don't think that this answers Natalie's question. I'm going to assume, Natalie, that you are going to school to learn something that would help you get a job in the entertainment industry, whether that's directing, acting, producing, etc. Do you need a degree for anything like that? No. You could work your butt off from some entry level position to where you want to be. Many successful film makers have taken this route. Education is expensive and time consuming. However, education allows you the chance to make industry contacts, have a more "classical" background in whatever area you are studying, and helps you decide what you like and are good at. You have to make the decision whether you want to pay a bunch of money for a degree or work a side job while pursuing your dreams. There are pluses and minuses to both approaches, and there is no one answer (in my opinion). I'd ask people who are in a place you want to get to professionally and ask them how they got there. All that said, I have decided, at least for the time being, to work a 9-5 job and pursue my dreams on the side. I have chosen not to get a degree in film making. I do have a degree in a completely different area, and this has allowed me to funnel some money toward learning film making by experience. My advice comes from my own experience, limited as it is. But, I watched the documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" and was really inspired by Jiro. He works crazy hours everyday and is known as the world's best sushi chef. When he became an adult, his parents told him that he had to make it on his own, and that he could not come back home. This was incredible motivation for him to follow his dreams, as he had no other choice. I'm not sure if this helps at all, as I'm assuming a lot. I guess I'm just suggesting that you take all advice given, including mine, with a grain of salt.

Franz von Toskana

Yes, get your qualification BUT get Industry experience too with an internship etc. I've just read an article on SP which began "I'm a qualified screenwriter..." meaning that writer has a degree in screenwriting which does NOT mean that person is professional. Professional means you have been paid, ie have written something which has actually been made. You don't say which discipline you are drawn to, so you are welcome to contact me direct at for a one-to-one advice. I founded an ran a film school for 12 years after being in the industry, so can advise. Cheers - Franz

John Steinmetz

Learn to write English !!! It is important to express your thoughts properly. Take a Philosophy course. Learn the Socratic Method. "…you are having 'quite' difficulty". Is there a different kind of difficulty? "…becoming 'real' discouraged." Is there an 'unreal'? Think properly! If this is the English you are being taught, go to a better school. This school is not 'finishing' you.

Craig Soffer

Finish school. A bachelor's degree in just about any subject from just about any school will open countless doors for you. Students who can't finish school show a lack of commitment and inability to focus and get the job done. This is a scary thing, even for filmmakers and actors, perhaps especially so. That bachelor's degree, for example, might let you teach English abroad for a year or two to save up some money to fulfill a dream. It also might get you the nice, easy office job you need to concentrate on your dreams in your free time. Knuckle down and get it done. Every opportunity I've ever had was abetted by my having a degree. In fact, that's the main reason I'm doing an MFA now. I love school, love learning new things, and I hope the MFA will open even more doors. Just a side note, I've been reading my whole life, but read five of my ten favorite books of all time for a class my first semester in the MFA. School is heaven on Earth. It's the real world that bites the big one.

Nicci Hartland

Finish School a degree is far more important than anyone realizes.

Franz von Toskana

So I think we're all agreed then: Finish School! AND you have all these lovely friends out here to advise!

Jake de Asis

Degree + Experiences + Connection = Success

Craig Soffer

Jake nailed it. Notice that he didn't include God-given talent or luck. There's no mysticism to it. Jake's formula is solid.

Armando Alejandro

People have to deal with all kinds of issues in their lives which could impact career goals. Depending on your circumstance, completing it is probably your best course of action. Finishing something is about how much you want it. It shows perseverance, endurance, dedication and commitment, etc. You don't want to look back 10 yrs from now and say 'I would have been FINISH by now.'... Take me for instance. I cheated my way through high school and then in college I didn't have that luxury. It was harder to cheat. I came home one day and told my mother that college was hard cause now I have to actually study which I hated. She told me,"well you can either study hard and get your degree or learn to clean streets or wash dishes because either way you're going to work." My two pennies...

Tony Treloar

It depends what you want to do. If it's some kind of creative work that you want to do, a piece of paper won't make you a great artist or filmmaker.

Mark Ratering

Tony's right.... don't want my doctor with experience want them to have gone to school for ...yeah twenty years or more

Durand Garcia

Your resume seems to indicate that you are interested in a career behind the camera - producer, director, 1st. AD, production manager and the like. And you seem to be doing the wise thing - combining both formal education and work experience. Continuing to do this will make you more valuable to an employer. Once you find what you really love doing the discouragement is not quite as devastating and your love will fill you with a desire to learn as much as you can about everything related to it. If you are still discouraged perhaps there is an imbalance in other aspects of your life - If I were you I would look at my religious life (not merely spiritual), and physical health habits - what you eat, drink, and how (if you do) exercise.

Rachael Saltzman

If you're acting, have a degree. For tech, experience. I have never been asked whether I have a degree or not (I do).

Natalie Villa

First of all, thank you all for taking the time to help out a discouraged student. I am looking to gain a professional career behind the camera and I think that finishing school is the best option. Many of you have helped me realize that many of the discouraged feelings I was having are not that big of a deal and to grit through the work. Again thank you all! I really do appreciate everyone's advice.

Simon King

This is the opinion of a father of five who himself has a BA and MA in mathematics and additional academic work in film production, so take it as you wish. A college degree will never guarantee you work but it does prove perseverance and that you have a certain amount of intelligence; either innate or garnered. This education will make a more well-rounded individual whose comments and opinions on all matters will be, more than likely, far better grounded in fact than if you walk through life with only a high school education. However... I know plenty of people with college degrees (yes, more than one) who are clueless when it comes to common sense. Nothing teaches you that other than real life. If you are questioning what you are getting from your education then either change majors or get a good backpack and an empty passport and go out and see the world. You would be amazed at how much you can learn when you get out of your own bubble. I have been fortunate enough to travel throughout Asia, Russia, Europe, and North America. When you see how the rest of the world lives and how they don't need Nintendo and text messaging to make it through the day you will begin to identify what is important to your own life. And... your travels will put endless filmmakking ideas into your head! The fact that you are questioning where you are and where your life is taking you is BRILLIANT! One caveat: If you are in FILM school and wondering if it is right for you I would UNEQUIVOCALLY say GET OUT!!! Film school is a huge financial drain and ALL of the knowledge learned can be gained from reading on your own, watching a thousand movies, reading countless screenplays, asking questions on here, joining every (well with prudence) indie film crew you can find and doing whatever is needed to help them. All of this will cost you pennies to dollars compared to film school. But what do I know?

Nicci Hartland

It's always great to have a degree in case the entertainment career does not work out you then have something to fall back on.

Sonny Dyon

I always lean to Quentin Tarrantino on this, "I didn't go to film school, I went to films." Not to say there isn't anything to learn from a proper education, especially on the tech side, but it really depends on what you want to do. For me, the thought of having a plan b just gives you an excuse when the going gets too tough...and it will.

Jacob Kauffman

From what I see in the job world, degrees seem to mean less and less largely because everybody has a degree of some sort. To put it in economic terms the value of a BA is steadily going down due to an over-saturated market of degree holders. If you can demonstrate you capability in a skill using a reel or portfolio, I have found that to be much more valuable (especially in creative fields). That said, if you think maybe you're just going to put all this film stuff behind you and try to start work as a librarian, or some other academically-focused profession, having a degree will help immensely to get you hired.

John Steinmetz

Read. Read books by directors. Read Elia Kazan's book and Sidney Lumet's book.

Larry Kostroff

Your parents will probably not agree, but you should read Richard Branson's speech about the unimportance of a degree. He advised that following your passion was more important than a degree. I also like Albert Einstein's remark, "The thing that slowed my attaining knowledge was education." He was considered a slow student. Education, today, is formulaic and doesn't (cannot) address the needs of the individual. In a perfect world, teaching would be one-to-one.

Michelle Jb

I went and 'lived' first (moved out of home at 15, moved abroad alone at 19) before attending Uni as a 'mature age' (late 20's) student. I asked my friend's wife who was a University professor to 'teach' me how to write a well-structured paper which took 2 hours of my life and from there on was like a bird on the wind, easy as pie. Life gave me the razor insights to write compelling, well-researched papers but school taught me how to fine-tune my point of view in written form as well as the importance of locating primary vs secondary sources to REALLY pack powerful punches with my papers (I realized how many published authors are supremely lazy with research and most referenced secondary sources and in turn provided 'common' but inaccurate knowledge in certain subjects) . So, each journey complimented each other. However, life interrupted said plans, I rolled with the punches and ended up transitioning from pursuing the 'knowledge' path to the path of 'expression'. As far as OUR field, yes, you learn more on set and in life - for certain positions. As an actor I believe actors need training IMO, to help them fine tune their instrument and do not know ONE working, talented actor who DIDN'T work at their craft under consistent tutelage. So, all depends on which position you seek. I say all can be relevant at different stages of the journey. But if you CAN finish your degree, and you can afford to, stick it out. Good to have 'just in case' :) <3

Janet Scott

What is the difficult part Natalie.... In regards to school? Not all of us are Academic. Some are.... more the ...Creative thinkers. A lot of people who did not finish school, went on to fabulous careers.

Hardy Awadjie

As someone who has spent 7 years in school and holds a master's degree, if you feel it's not for you, get out now. Especially depending on your degree. Too many stories that have crossed my path about people studying useless degrees in which you really don't need to go to school for because of the societal notion that 'everyone needs to go to college'. As Bill Maher said, "Not everyone can be lawyers."

Jennifer Stewart

I believe that whether school is a good thing or not often depends on how good the teachers/lecturers are. Good ones make you feel inspired and help you through challenges and they create a really good foundation for your career. Bad ones are on an ego and power trip. They make themselves out to be the ultimate authority and make you feel like nobody - which is incredibly discouraging, and makes you want to give up. I think whether you should stay or go depends on what's making it difficult, because that's what's important. If you're wanting to run from something that's hard to deal with, it's maybe better to face it, know exactly what it is, deal with it as best you can, and preferably with a whole lot of backup. Then make your decision about whether to stay or not. I think it's great that you asked the question here!

Adam P. Murphy

Maybe doesn't relate to you directly but still a timely post:

Natchapon Purikananond( Dusit K)

Even though skilled or experienced person are needed by most organization, but in order to get good experience you would need a degree. It may be hard to get a degree but if you really focus on getting one, you will definitely get it for sure. The academic you learn from school will also become good tools for you to use in your life after school. Stay in school! Actually, it only lasts a few years. Hang on to it. Get a degree and it'll make your life a little easier than NOT getting one.

Julian Nabunya

both make a good component, and its better you achieve one by one , now that your already in it .."degree " then finish and move on to work , you will earn experience

Matt Nolan

If you're close to finishing School, then definitely finish. Having a Degree is invaluable in so many ways. If you're an Actor, having that Degree can work in your advantage in many ways throughout your Career.

Jahmilla Jackson

You're already doing it might as well finish it. Once you have it it can never be taken away. Get it now while you're in the groove. Don't just give up. best wishes Jax

Randall Roffe

Very few of the greats had any kind of degree

Christopher Hart

The degree is the proof to everyone else that you have the training to do the job, but, to you, it's proof that you can finish what you started.

Rafael Marinho

Not true. Just look at actor's like Ralph Fiennes (Central School of Speech and Drama), Meryl Streep (Yale School of Drama), Marlon Brando (Stella Adler), Al Pacino (Strasberg), Daniel Day Lewis (Bristol Old Vic). All either got degrees or years of training. Finish your degree. :)

Christopher Hart

@Rafael, I saw your post and thought you were responding to mine. All I saw was "Not true" it's a good thing I read it all. The degree is very powerful, it goes beyond our fields. I hope she'll keep going.

Nydia Simone

Finish school. The degree is worth it.

Franz von Toskana

I now read above that you want to be behind the camera. Thus be aware that there are actually film schools out there which boast "We will not bore you with the math of cinematography" which is unbelievable. I am on the panel which created an MSc in Cinematography at Greenwich University and with the arrival of digital, the math of lensing is even more important as the back-focus for chips is far more critical than for celluloid.

Natalie Villa

Thank you all for your wonderful feedback. I am overwhelmed by the suggestions and supportiveness for pursuing my BFA. I do appreciate all of you taking the time to respond. Some of your words are exactly what I needed to hear. I now believe that I am ready to finish. Thank you for all the support. I now feel like I can tackle on 3 or 4 degrees, although I will settle for one ;) Thank you again!

Marina Tallent

School is important. You can not do anything without a degree. You always can get your experience during break time. Stay in school and get your degree.

Evan Marlowe

You should finish school since you've already committed. However, realize it probably won't help much without all the other aspects of building a career: knowing how to work well with others, being assertive, taking advantage of social media, understanding wealth building. I'd say school will be 5-10% of the equation. If you finish school and don't create a strong base for yourself in these other areas, you will likely flounder. It's unfortunate, but many studies and surveys have shown lately that graduates feel their degrees are worthless in the workplace, and in particular the degrees in the arts have underperformed other fields.

Simon King

Absolutes are dangerous. To say "You can not do anything without a degree" is simply wrong. Did Steve Jobs do nothing? How about Ralph Lauren? Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, Ansel Adams, Woody Allen, Mother Teresa, and you know the list goes on. Are these exceptions to the rule?Perhaps, but this is why it is important to avoid "never, always, nothing, everything, etc." You learn that in school ;)

John Steinmetz

Yes, in Philosophy 101 (?) you learn never [well, hardly ever] to use absolutes. But you don't need a Degree for that. Abe Lincoln had only 3 1/2 years of formal schooling. Research will reveal that the more educated folks were self-taught.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Since this ZOMBIE post is 4 years old, Natalie must be out of school & on her way. Who digs up 4-yr-old posts? I say, BURY IT!. Please. Beth Fox Heisinger Shawn Speake

Hakim Kisakye

yeah finish

Other topics in Anything Goes:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In