questionmarkI’m 22 years of age and I’m currently an online student at the Academy of Art University based in California. (I live in Florida.) I am majoring in Directing and Producing.

I’m doing very well with school but I feel I’m not getting anywhere in the process. I mean, the way school is going I’m not going to graduate until I’m around 25 – 26 years of age which is just absurd especially since I’ve been in school already for a year & a half. I may not even finish my online schooling because it’s a bit pricey for the cost per class. I’m also not able to truly associate or really affiliate with anyone through the online program. Online schooling is just not good in that matter since everything is through a message board. You’re also not able to get hands on with anything. I’ve even looked on transferring but the situation is just not presenting itself well.

I’ve talked to a few people and even read some things on if schooling is needed for this industry and some say yes and others say no. It’s a guessing game from where I’m standing.

I’ve even looked around on ways to get noticed or recognized as many have said film festivals, film schools and so forth but that’s nothing new and I didn’t already know. But in order to enter a film festival, I need a film and that takes a lot of money to get a film made and I just don’t have the resources either. I’m really just looking for answers on what do and how I can get my foot through the door but then again, I’m still looking for a door.

I can’t just up & move to California even though I do plan on going out there sometime down-the-line (when? Who knows at this time) but I wouldn’t know where to begin or let alone look, on how to get some kind of acknowledgment or advice. My folks and I are just trying to find some answers for me or a path of some sorts. It’s just becoming frustrating. My folks are questioning on what to do as it’s a dead end on every corner and opportunities are just not coming about.

I hope that maybe you could provide some answers or something.

— Scott

I think online classes are a great option for many topics, but basic filmmaking isn’t one of them. Drop out and save your money.

Yes: a class that was purely about screenwriting could be taught online, but almost every other part of filmmaking is physical and collaborative. You need to be setting up lights and comparing angles and figuring out why the sound isn’t recording right. An online session might offer a master class with Robert Elswit talking about composition. It would be fascinating. But it wouldn’t be the practical information you need right now as an aspiring filmmaker.

Make short films. Find little movies that are shooting in Florida and work on them for free. Take local classes in the things that interest you.

You’re 22 — you don’t have to have your whole life figured out. But you owe it to yourself to pursue every interesting thing with every bit of energy you have. And if you still find filmmaking is your number one passion, move to a place where they make movies. That’s Los Angeles, New York, and (recently, thanks to tax credits) Louisiana. Get yourself there and get hired on a movie. You’ll learn more your first week as a PA than you have so far in your online classes.

Read what Adam Davis wrote about his experience moving to LA to get started. It’s not easy, but it’s not overwhelming either. Every young actor you’ve seen on TV has moved to Los Angeles, and trust me, many of them aren’t that smart or confident.

Your parents are nervous because they don’t see a clear path ahead for you. My mom was the same way. But once I was here, working 16-hour days on a hundred different things, she could at least see that I’d found something that really engaged me. I was making things, even if I wasn’t making enough money to buy a bed.

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to have doubts. But don’t let them paralyze you. You don’t have much, but you have your youth. There are many folks reading this blog in their thirties or forties with a marriage and mortgage who don’t have options you have. Embrace your freedom and explore.