As someone who has been in a position to hire staff, I understand the temptation to look down on those who have arts degrees. If you are looking for a web developer, you should find someone with a computer science degree, right? If you are looking for a marketer, shouldn’t you look for an MBA? The answer, of course, is not necessarily.
In my experience as a hiring manager, critical thinking and work ethic are just two things that I value more than an applicant’s degree. As any hiring manager will tell you, individuals who don’t have the right degree often work out better than those who do have the right degree.
I utilize the skills that I formed in college on a daily basis and feel that the value of my film degrees are sometimes overlooked. Here’s my case for hiring film production majors for jobs that have nothing to do with film production.
1) Film Majors Are Critical Thinkers and Problem Solvers
Research touting the benefits of experiential learning and project-based learning are plentiful. The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) reports that project-based learning improves problem-solving and critical thinking skills. It also has the added benefit of improving teacher job satisfaction, and it creates greater equity between students from different backgrounds, including various grades levels. Ironically, these skills are precisely what employers value most - even more than the college major. In an article for Forbes, Ashley Stahl reports that "93% of employers believe that critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills are more important than a job candidate’s undergraduate field of study."
My project-based film production degree provided me with the following skills, all of which I have used professionally:
- Leadership: A student filmmaker tends to be the director/producer, and managing cast and crew for a particular project is much like managing a 15-30 person staff. In fact, managing a good A.D. is like managing a manager. These individuals are often working for free, so learning to motivate your team is critical.
- Budget management: Each film project has expenses. Equipment and locations to pay for, cast and crew to compensate (or at least feed), and post-production costs. Filmmakers are typically spending their own money, so the pressure to come in under-budget is very high.
- Project management: Planning makes or breaks the production cycle. If the cast and crew arrive on set and there is no plan, the project is doomed. Storyboards, shortlists, shooting schedules, cast and crew assignments, and much more all need to be carefully planned to ensure that the shoot is successful and efficient.
- Critical thinking and problem solving: No matter how well you plan, some problem will arise. Film production majors need to be able to respond quickly to unexpected events and make good decisions rapidly.
These are just a few examples of how a film project develops skills that are critical in today’s workforce.
2) Video Is Eating Everything
According to Cisco, internet video streaming and downloads will grow to more than 81 percent of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021. Major companies are increasing their investment in video, including Instagram which recently announced IGTV. Learning to communicate in this medium will be more and more important each year, especially for marketers. Your company needs to be able to communicate, share concepts, and tell stories visually.
Data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that video trumps reading as a leisure activity, and resources like YouTube make it possible to learn to do new things by watching others rather than reading instructions or books. Reading is and always will be beautiful and critical, and writing will always be one of the most essential skills for any employee. Still, being able to create video content in the future will be more and more useful each year, regardless of one’s industry.
My film production degree, for example, has provided me with the following skills:
Create system/software training videos for customers, stakeholders, or colleagues.
Ability to edit down a previously produced video for a company.
Understand what images to select to communicate ideas on web pages, brochures, presentations, etc.
User-friendly presentations for institutional leadership.
3) Filmmakers are Detail Oriented
Every detail needs to be carefully considered when making a film or video. The angle that the camera shoots at tells us how to feel about characters in given circumstances, as does the lighting, costuming, and performances. Performance and tone need to match even when sequences are shot out of order - sometimes a month apart.
In video production, it is important for backgrounds and subjects (wardrobe, hair, and makeup, etc.) to remain exactly the same throughout the duration of the shoot, or else these elements can appear inconsistent to the viewer, creating a jarring and unenjoyable viewing experience.
4) Filmmaking is Hard, and Hard Work Trumps All
One of my film professors would frequently tell this joke: “Filmmaking isn’t brain surgery. Brain surgery is easy.” While I can’t say that I exactly agree, the joke is funny to filmmakers because we recognize how much work, planning, and stress goes into the filmmaking process.
Filmmakers have to be imaginative enough to see a completed moment, scene, and film in their heads and organized enough to understand each element that goes into transforming those brainwaves into light that can be seen by viewers. Student filmmakers have to work tirelessly to:
Organize thousands of dollars (at minimum) of equipment.
Organize the logistics for locations, casts, and crews including tasks, breaks, call times, and much more.
Meet aggressive and unforgiving deadlines in a high-pressure, fast-paced environment.
Promote their work after it is complete to festivals, agents, and production companies.
Planning a film production is a lot like planning a big expensive wedding. There are many moving parts, and a high probability that something will go wrong that is beyond anyone’s control. The way out of those situations is fast thinking and hard work, and remember, the production phase is only one of three phases. Before that is pre-production, and after that is post-production. Hard work is what gets films made - more than talent, more than training, and more than intelligence. Hard work is the single greatest competitive advantage, and filmmakers have it.
So there you have it. Are you thinking of hiring someone who has a film degree? Do it. In fact, you can hire me right now.