I've been putting off writing this post for a few weeks, partly because I have other projects going on, but mainly because it's kind of an uncomfortable topic for me. Whether you've heard it through the grapevine, or heard me allude to it in several previous posts, it is in fact official that I will not be returning to university in the fall.
True, I likely won't even return to the University of Regina to finish my degree in the film progam. I suppose this is shocking depending on your own personal experience. Some relate, some disagree, and generally those who know me just look at me wide-eyed when I say it. Although perhaps it's strange to leave after the time I've put into this education, with every ounce of ambition, passion, and confidence that I have I know it's a step in the right direction for me. Sure, at its simplest it's just leaving school I guess, but it's also giving up that 'student' definition; that comfortable and forgiving term that for any artist in my position gives you a title that says it's okay that you haven't made it big yet.
It's not that I don't want to make movies anymore, it's exactly the opposite. I want to get started with my life and honestly believe that these last few random programs are not only a waste of money, but a waste of time and effort in the way of real experiences and tests. Sure the piece of paper is important, and I don't want to express any negativity towards those who pursue it because I understand it's benefits as well.
My choice is obviously a personal one and in such a case, my sentiment is what really matters. For me, I feel I've been stagnant in this environment for the last couple of semesters and I feel like I'm drowning. The one thing keeping me afloat is my personal filmmaking (the blog/sasktel contest/etc) and in my own opinion, when you discover your inner passion, when you can see your goals, when you go out of your way to better yourself, when you become your own teacher, well then, learning through dictation loses it's effectiveness.
I guess what I'm saying is that I've been lucky enough to experience and learn a great deal in regards to my own productions and I can't take the hypotheticals anymore. Experience a bit of success on your own and how can you go back to just talking about? I want and need more of the reality.
I started my university career straight out of high school in the fall of 2002, meaning that by the end of this semester I will have been in school for 6 years . . . yes, for a 4 year program. The reasons for this are long, but the last 2 years especially have been plagued by a lack of motivation, understanding, and reasoning as to why I was subjecting myself to classes that seemed redundent and worthless. In argument of this I always tell the story of how in a 4th year production class one of the major assignments was to write about one of your favourite directors. I was thinking:
"I'm sorry prof, but after the tens of thousands of dollars spent to get to 4th year programs in film, i'm beyond telling you about one of my favourite directors. I can do that in a couple sentences, tell me I have to make another movie! Challenge me! Trust me, I wouldn't be this far in the program if I didn't care about cinema, and if you're concerned that Johnny and Jane don't know their directors and styles by this point - let them make another movie and they'll realize just how far behind they really are. It's a sink or swim industry, and all the times I was humbled in class only made me stronger the next time around. Honestly, this is the end, this is the advanced class, write a paper on a director in a PRODUCTION class? Give me something I can sink my teeth into! Please inspire me to do more than read the same books in the library again! I can do that for free."
My mind has been made up to leave school by a series of stories like this that I'll probably end up writing a book about when I'm 40. This stuff is funny the first few times, then it just gets painful when you realize how much you're paying for it.
So where does this leave me? Well, i'll be in limbo for the summer at least while I work to pay off some of my debt. Then it's an open playing field. If I wanted to be an accountant or an engineer my strategy would seem pretty foolish, but based on my research it seems that a strong portfolio (which I do have) is just as, if not more, valuable in proving what you're capable of. There's still a load of uncertainty in this choice, but at the end of the day, school will always be there, I'm still young enough to pursue a lot of directions, and by doing this I feel like I'm finally moving forward. It just feels right.
I have to admit though, as strange as it is, if I hadn't gone to university in the first place I may have never gained the level of confidence to take such big risks (especially in the capacity where I'm able to act solely on what I want, without being bothered that others would/could do it differently). I've learned to trust myself and believe in myself, and whether I'm in school or not, I finally understand that I'm beyond what it is to be a film student. Regardless of what anyone else may think, I'm a filmmaker, degree or not.