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Film School (coming from Dentistry)

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  • Film School (coming from Dentistry)

    Hi guys,

    So I guess this is a way off topic considering the purpose of this forum, but I've been checking back here for the past couple of years looking at people's work and general advice about film making, so I figured I'd post my questions here and hope that some of you might be able to chime in with advice. It's a bit of an essay so here we go.

    I'm a 23 year old who will be graduating University on the 15th of July.

    At age 8 I saw and fell in love with Tim Burton's Batman. Two obsessions developed at that point, Batman and story-telling. I then watched Star Wars and decided that directing films seemed way too complicated!

    At age 11, I embarked on a pathway that would eventually lead to me following in my father's footsteps (he's an Emergency Room Doctor). I always maintained a link to the film and television world. Between the ages of 12-16 I was selected to act in the ITV young actors workshop in Birmingham (which was very competitive at the time). When I turned 16 I made the unfortunate choice of leaving the workshop to focus on my studies and swimming.

    For my GCSEs I followed the sciences instead of the arts, and did the same for A-Levels. During this time, my father purchased an iMac with iMovie preloaded. That was it. Everything from music videos to stop motion films was edited through that Mac. It re-ignited my interest in film production, but with the amount of work that lay ahead, it could only ever be a hobby.

    I came out of school with 7A*s, 3As at GCSE and 4 As at A-Level which put me in good standing for my University application.

    At this point, a lot of complicated turnings around occurred, the details of which I won't bore you with, but in the end I started a degree in Dentistry at the University of Birmingham. I finished this 3 weeks ago (thank god...).

    Throughout the past 5 years I continued to exercise my hobby in video making, producing comedic shorts and music videos (often times ridiculing dentistry), but I never had the time to fully commit to any media projects. Everyone always asked me why I was doing Dentistry instead of film (I'm not sure whereto or not they were implying that I was good with a camera, or shitty with a drill...but alas).

    Now, don't get me wrong. I don't hate Dentistry, but to me it's just a job. I could never do the work with the same passionate enthusiasm as my peers. There have been very few times when I have been genuinely driven to learn something in the dental world out of interest rather than necessity. Just imagine being at a party that you weren't invited to, but your friend dragged you along anyway...

    The only satisfaction I get out of the job is seeing a happy patient once the treatment is complete. Thankfully, I've found dealing with patients to be the most pleasurable aspect of my work as a dentist, and this alone sustains my drive to continue working.

    BUT now that I've graduated, I have a number of choices to make, and potential paths to follow. What I really want to do is go to film school, and the two I have my heart set on are USC and NYU, both very competitive to gain entry to (but where there's a will, there's a way).

    There is still one last step to take in my dental career though. I want to practice in the USA, and to this I have to undertake a 2 year program at a US-based Dental School. This will set me back 2 years (obviously) and leave me with approximately $200,000 in debt, which can be made back working as a dentist, but is obviously a very sizeable bit of business to take care of.

    One way or another, I do plan to take on film school. I'm just not sure if I should do it before or after US dental school.

    I'm 23 now, which means that if I pursue the US Dental Conversion course, I'll basically be 27 (at the earliest) when I come to apply to film school, and I worry that I'll be a bit too 'long in the tooth' to be embarking on such an endeavour.

    My other option is to do the BFA in Film next year, and THEN complete my US conversion course after that. Other things to factor in are the fact that I need to complete a certain amount of work each year as a dentist in order to stay registered, I may need to complete USA SAT exams (I'm not sure if my UK qualifications will hold up in the US) and money is obviously an issue.

    So I'm wondering what advice you guys have?

    Can I enter film school at age 27/28 (after qualifying to work as a dentist in the US) and still integrate well with my classmates? Should I start now? Is it already too late?

    Also, I'd just like to add. I've landed myself a job as a Dentist in Central London next year. I'm free pretty much every weekend, so if anyone is looking for an extra set of hands on shoots etc. I'm happy to come along and work for little to nothing (I just want to gain experience in the film making environment).

    Many thanks in advance to those who read and reply.

  • #2
    Many different people will have many different opinions on film schools, as well as their general usefulness in actually learning the craft. Leaving that aside, what is it that you want to go to film school to do? There are many, many different positions available on set. Basically, if you want to start working in the industry, the general advice I've heard from people already in is to spend time on set any way you can. Consider trying to PA for local crews for little or no pay, or sign up as an extra if a shoot is coming up that you know about. Depending on what you want to do, just getting your name and face out there and networking with people is really the best way in. Don't expect to do anything right away, it is a competitive industry after all, but keep trying and eventually there might be a spot that needs to be filled for a day, or a week, or whatever, and your name will come up.

    The hard part is breaking in, after that you can work your way up from the bottom. Film schools are good for building these connections earlier, rather than later, as well as getting you the basic knowledge on how the industry works. I've actually never been and have never been on a real set, but this is all based on what I've heard. Take this all with a grain of salt!


    • #3
      My best friends decided to go to film school at age 31, after working almost 10 years in a non creative job. As far as I can tell he integrated perfectly and still hangs out with the 'young' guys. He graduated and now works in the industry.
      If you worry about being too old after qualifying to work as a dentist in the US, don't do, you won't be.


      • #4
        Ameer, touching story about vocation and avocation. My advice, coming from someone who is travelling an even more twisted path through life: follow your calling, do what you love, love your work, love what you have, talk to your parents and let them know you understand their desire for you to be a success and to use your talents, and you want them to be proud of you and happy they have raised a son who is determined to make a difference in this world, to share their values which are your values in everything you do, but you are going to follow your calling to achieve those goals and you hope they'll give their love and their blessing to be the person you are. That's all.

        You have no choice, you must take a different path, and at 23, it's time to begin the rest of your life as a filmmaker. Stip is right, you're never too old as age usually brings wisdom, but in practical terms age can bring marriage, children, mortgages, and so on. You're at a perfect time, probably the only time you may have, to set your course and heading against the wind, and sail into the adventure of a life you'll never regret.


        • #5
          As someone why recently gave up on my filmmaking aspirations, its going to come down to family. If you see yourself getting married and having a family in the next 2-3 years, I would stick with the dentistry thing for now. You can get your finances started and be stable, with an income to support your filmmaking endeavors. But if you think that having a family is a long way off (7-10 years) Now is the time to follow your dreams!
          -Michael Beck


          • #6
            I think now is a critical time for you ...23 is nice and ripe for to decide what you want to do. IMO since you have tasted dentistry and have alot of experience in it to know if you like it or not...i think you should take this opportunity to explore what makes you happy (or what you think will make you happy). Give yourself the chance to really be able to know what you want to do. Then I think you will be in a position to make a better choice as to where your life should go.
            Darren Scott
            Freelance Director/Director of Photography



            • #7
              Some side advice regarding marriage and children if that's of interest to you: marry somebody in a creative industry who will push and inspire your filmmaking if that's the path you choose.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Dan Pears View Post
                Some side advice regarding marriage and children if that's of interest to you: marry somebody in a creative industry who will push and inspire your filmmaking if that's the path you choose.
                Best advice for this industry hands down I've seen.


                • #9
                  Ameer, I am the parent who told his 33 year old son to close his business and go to a cine university. He is 37 now and working on his final thesis. It is taking extra time to finish because he is working in the industry. An enviable problem to have.

                  You won't have a problem with the younger group of students. The problem will be reverse, you will often have higher expectations as you have worldly experience on what it takes to get a finished product that is marketable.

                  Why did I encourage him to make such a radical social and economic change?

                  We all want our children to be happy and successful. Sooner or later we realize that success is they live a life that makes them happy.
                  Last edited by Marckusw; 07-03-2015, 08:25 AM.


                  • #10
                    Hey Ameer, I obviously know you from back in the early RED days, but anyway two things I will say. Firstly, film school is good for only three things, mixing with like-minded people, access to kit and the excuse to be creative 24/7. I've been to two filmmaking institutions and I enjoyed my time there, but consider myself 'self-taught'. Secondly, I was 26 when I went to film school and I can tell you it makes zero difference what age you are. There will be a range of ages there, and whilst you will likely be older than most you have a step up in a lot of other ways. I also know that you have been floating around for a while and have a decent grasp on things so you will be a step up in that regard too. People don't really take young people seriously in this industry. If you aren't in your thirties you're still green. A bit of age will do you good. I don't know that I would wholly recommend film school at all though. If you can get money together to shoot a selection of shorts and just keep working with a variety of p people when you can, you'll learn more than you will at film school anyway.

                    PS. I will keep you in mind for shoots next year.


                    • #11
                      Hey guys, thank you so much for the array of responses. It's pretty re-assuring to see that age really isn't a factor , and is very touching to hear some of your own personal anecdotes.

                      With regards to my parents, it's actually my dad who is pushing for me to go to Fi;m School when I have the finances in order, so they're pretty supportive in that respect, they just wanted me to have a stable fall-back (dentistry).

                      Marriage wise, I'm still in a state a 'flux' when it comes to that side of my life, so I likely won't be settling down until I'm in my mid-thirties. And like Dan Pears said, I'm looking for someone who is also from an artistic background. In my year at Dental School there were 60 girls and 10 guys. 5 years on, you couldn't pay me to marry any one of them. They're all nice people, but the pre-conception of Dentists being very dull people, is unfortunately very true (from my point of view at least).

                      As Tim Hole (good to see a fellow Scarleteer again, lol) knows, I've been lurking in the shadows for quite a while now. I'm lucky in the sense that I've now got a stable job, and time.

                      Having weighed it all up, and drawing from all of your responses, I'm thinking the best thing to do right now is to establish myself as a Dentist over the next 2 or 3 years, do my USA conversions, and use my free time to build up some practical experience and a decent portfolio to strengthen my chances at film school.

                      I've got the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera on order. (It's everything I was hoping the Scarlet would be, haha) Planning on using it push myself grading and editing wise.

                      Like you said Tim, I'll be older and wiser (hopefully). What excites me is the idea of being immersed in film making 24/7 and being a melting pot of creativity. You see a lot of great writer/director/producer pairs or groups come out of film school together.

                      Please DO keep me in mind if you need an extra pair of hands on set

                      Thanks again for all the replies. Hopefully I'll be a little more active on these forums over the coming months


                      • #12
                        Kudos to your dad. Apologies for my underestimating him! You are blessed.


                        • #13
                          It doesn't quite make sense to me to go $200,000 in debt in order to do two more years of school, only to have to get a job as a dentist to pay it back and THEN go to film school -- especially if you are saying that you have your heart set on film school and don't really see yourself becoming a dentist. That's a lot of time and money spent building up to something you do want to do.

                          That being said, in my opinion Film school is incredibly expensive and they are teaching an outdated model for success in the film industry. A lot of people go hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt going to film school, only to finish and find themselves in a similar place to where they started. As others have said, film school allows you the time and space around like minded people in order to create work. However, in the end the best way to get into the film industry is to literally just start making films, and keep making them.


                          • #14
                            I tend to agree as long as you are in a market area where you can easily find like-minded people to be part of a production. However i think we are underestimating the importance to Ameer in relocating to the USA. He really feels dentistry will be key to achieving residency. I think the UK is a wonderful source of creative people and probably the best pool of acting talent in the world. Not sure I'd feel compelled to leave that at any cost.