Screenwriting : Degree vs Experience by P. Cornell Hunter

P. Cornell Hunter

Degree vs Experience

I wanted to ask this question because I am thinking about going back to school and getting a degree. I wanted to know which is the best way to get your foot in the door? I am thinking about attending Full Sail since I can do it all online, but I have heard the other side say that experience is the key. I am in my 30's and finally decided to do something I enjoy so but I am having difficulties trying to find a starting point. I have a bunch of ideas but dont know where to begin when it comes to getting them into the hands of TV or Film companies. Can anyone offer advice? Thanks

Zach Rosenau

Full Sail is a for-profit university that will put you so mind-blowingly deep in the red that it makes producing a micro-budget feature with complete strangers and zero experience among the lot of you sounds like a model of sense and reason. Just commit to making something, find peers, and see what happens and where it takes you. There are like five-to-ten books on filmmaking that if you read them and really digest what they are saying, and then go out and film, is better than film school. COMMIT and COLLABORATE. Don't drink the for-profit degree kool-aid. Respectfully, ...

P. Cornell Hunter

Zach, thanks for your comment I was very close to signing papers to attend, but man that place is really expensive.

P. Cornell Hunter

Steven, thanks for your comment, thats the main reason I signed up to Stage32 to meet others in the business and learn as much as I can.

Richard Toscan

Whatever you do, stay away from for-profit colleges and universities. Since you're based in Dallas, you might think about moving to Austin which is becoming a notable center of film production. University of Texas-Austin has a good undergrad film program ( so you'd only be on the hook for in-state tuition. The real benefit of film school is contacts through faculty, visiting professionals, and working on student productions -- this last is one of the best ways to connect with future directors and producers. Also, check into the Film Commissions in Texas and Austin. And perhaps best as a first step, attend the next Austin Film Festival -- it's one of the country's major film events for directors and screenwriters ( The next festival is in October 2015; camp out there for the week, talk to everybody you can get to (that's part of the package they're known for) as a way of figuring out your next move.

P. Cornell Hunter

Thanks Richard for the info, Austin is one of the places I am thinking about relocating to.

Walter Harris Gavin

My advice is to do both. There's nothing that beats OTJT. Real world experience trumps the classroom anytime. But you do need some grounding in the process. And it really depends on where you see yourself-above-the-line or below? Scriptwriting is both technique and creativity. Directing is about having a great visual sense. Producing means being able to raise money and being creative, very organized, understanding the process from beginning to end. The crafts each have their own specialty, expertise and talent requirement.

Shane M Wheeler

I recommend Make Your Own Damn Film (book). There are better books, but it's a good way to get the kick in the pants crash course and get something filmed. I'd also say, look into a 48 Hour Film Project. It's not 100% professional, but its great for meeting other people looking to collaborate and get something made.

P. Cornell Hunter

Thanks Shane

Cherie Grant

You can do both. Definitely do the course if you can.

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

I wouldn't suggest going to film school online. No, it's not a suggestion. Definitely, definitely, don't do that. No one in the film industry cares about whether you have a piece of paper saying that you passed a bunch of film classes. What they do care about is your experience during prep, production, or post. If you don't have any hands on experience, your degree in film will be useless. Physically attend a film school if you plan on getting an education in film. It's all about contacts and hands on experience.

Cruz Andronico Fernandez

There are some good points that have been brought up. The second post is really good and states a lot of the ideas I wanted to present to you. To that I will add, I just graduated Full Sail May 8th from the Creative Writing for Entertainment online program. Yes, your gonna owe some money when your done, but the quality of education and experience is worth it. I would have preferred to attend the on campus program. I took a campus tour after the graduation ceremony and that place is amazing. It is literally a film studio lot! The online program is apart as good. If you put the time into networking with your classmates and participate in the live online sessions you will get a close network of filmmaking partners. There are so many things that you can learn from this school about the industry that you would have learn by trial and error in the real world. If you want to get into the entertainment industry without previous connections or experience, than Full Sail is a great way to get your foot in the door. If you have any questions about the school please feel free to ask. I can also put you in touch with people at the school.

Cherie Grant

Jean pierre doing a course is not about earning a piece of paper. it's about learning the basics. DO THE COURSE!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Hi Co! As another option, have you taken a look at the Next Level Education available through Stage 32? Classes and webinars are listed under "Education." Personally, I am a self-taught writer. I've utilized books, read a ton of scripts, read a ton of blogs, taken a few webinars and have benefited greatly by sharing ideas and experience with my dear friends here at Stage 32. I'm happy to give you my book recommendations -- to buy or to find for free at your local library. You certainly can develop as a writer without a degree. But, to each their own. :) Do whatever works best for you!

P. Cornell Hunter

Thanks Beth

Nes Snipes

Hi Co, It has been my experience that the best way to get your foot in the door is to connect with people that are actually doing it. You need to get out and network. Getting a degree is nice but networking is ultimately what will make the difference relative to your career.

Egypt Reale

Going back to school is always a good thing because perfecting your craft continuously is one of the elements that make successful people. This industry is always developing and changing. Getting a degree for the "degree" itself has nothing to do with success or failure in this industry. Experience is good - yes -and does help. However, it is not experience that makes or breaks your career either - it is skill. And not just "skill" for the sake of skill - it is all around skill - meaning professionalism. Which is, a person who knows their craft better than the next guy, who can easily work with anyone no matter what their personality is, who is reliable, good, and flexible, and who gets themselves known by the people who can and will hire them. That is what it takes to make it in the Entertainment field. Once you have skill and professionalism get yourself on as many lines as you can to get others who can hire you or help you out and get yourself known by them. Find out what they need or want and introduce yourself and help them help you.

P. Cornell Hunter

Thanks Egypt

Melonie Zarko

With four kids looking to college in my next twelve years - any more college for me is a dream. I've had a nursing degree, been to college, and experienced more than my fair share in the military. With so much information, and opportunity to self - teach via different sources on the internet - I think my dreams of writing a great screen play are very good. It's going to take time, and a whole lot of passion and dedication!

P. Cornell Hunter

Thank you all for your advice I really appreciate it, this is one of the reasons I joined this site to get opinions from people who are already in the business, thanks again

Mike Romoth

I'd stay far away from and for-profit many others have warned. The most important thing I learned getting my MFA in Creative Writing (University of Washington, Seattle) was the ability to tackle large projects. We all dream of making something large and meaningful, but the large commitment required for that first screenplay or that first novel is overwhelming for many. Once you get into professional circles, as many in the S32 community have done, you are expected to have a dozen or so completed projects that are polished and honed to a sharp edge. Grad school forces you to write. It gives you deadlines. It's up to you to turn that education into a business.

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