November 20, 2012

The Job Hunt, Pt 2: Film School Was Totally Worth It

Nicholas Humphries, director and instructor at VFS
And, boom! That's how quickly two months fly by. Really? Sixty-six days since my last post? And I call myself a writer.

Speaking of writing, here's how that has been going lately: Much better than expected.

I'd love to be able to say the two restaurant jobs I secured since last I blogged have shut me in a dank, overworked, computerless prison where creativity deigns to tap me on the shoulder for fear I'll resentfully snap back, "Later!" (I say I'd love to only because it would make for a more tragic and compelling tale. Ah, we writers, always in search of an "angle", even if we have to pull it from our own wretched, if occasionally-hyperbolized, life experience. Sick, huh?) Yes, I now find myself working seven days a week in two uniforms not of my own choosing, taking orders and doling out martinis. Yes, this former oil field manager whose salary once kissed six figures occasionally pines for the good old days.

But the truth is, shortly after graduating from Vancouver Film School, I was able to secure a writing job, too. That`s right, a bona fide (and get this, paid) job as a co-writer on a sizable indie feature film set for production next summer. I can't give away a lot of details, but it's an Indian-American love story with all the ingredients of a truly great movie, and I have the equally great fortune of working in a room filled with committed, passionate souls that resembles those heady student workshops I loved and miss so much. And did I mention I'm getting paid? Not in credits, nachos and beer, either. I'm talking real money!

On top of that, I landed four gigs (most of them paid) composing music for various productions: A promo reel for Vancouver's Cineworks, a commercial for HootSuite, a corporate promo video for Timedrops Media, and a short horror film.

Meanwhile, I've got four other projects on the boil: an original feature of my own, a web series, a biography, and a teleplay I keep promising Sir Michael Baser I'll send him for review one day. (It's coming, Michael, it's coming.) All gratis, of course, but proof that there is life after film school if one is determined to fight for it. Many of my fellow former students would say the same. Matt is collaborating with a solid team on a feature. Piers is hard at work on his own web series. Hannah recently got roped in to a TV show! I could go on. The point is, whether still in the planning stages, just getting started or already ten miles down the road, we`re all very much on the move.

(Hence my online absence in the blog department. I`ll try not to let it happen again.)

I take all of this is an unequivocal validation that going to film school was worth it. Worth the cost, the time, the sleepless, angst-filled nights, the punctuated equilibrium of our life trajectories. Whatever precisely comes of our individual hopes, dreams, and collaborations; whichever projects languish in writer's purgatory, burst forth with wild success, or fizzle into nothing, I believe it's fair now, a short three months after graduating, to drive a flag deep into the ground and claim a victory for Vancouver Film School. And for us. They did it and we did it. Point being, we couldn't have done it without each other.

As I've said in previous posts, I can't speak for the experience of every student in every department. Maybe writers instinctively look for silver linings, I don't know. But I don't think so. Because I'm looking at a script and a pay stub with my name on it. You know, that thing scientists call "proof"?

So if you're an anxious but aspiring film school student wondering if all that tuition and a potentially big and inconvenient move west is worth the bother, take this occasionally-not-so-humble writer's word for it: Yes, it is very worth it.

But take heed: those of us who have found some measure of success have done so for a reason. And that is, we gave it everything. We weren't geniuses. We weren't necessarily the very best writers in the world. (Okay, I'll speak for myself.) But we showed up in class, did the work, had a realistic view of what miracles VFS could and couldn't accomplish for us, and in the words of a well-known astronaut, never gave up and never surrendered.

If you can do that, I dare say it's infinity and beyond for you, too!


  1. Hey thanks for the insight! I am in term 1 of the VFS Film Production program (with aspirations of being a comedy writer), and any fellow good fortune gives me hope! Take care!

  2. My pleasure, Connor. And all the best in Term 1, 2 and beyond. There are good things on the horizon. Meanwhile, enjoy the ride!

  3. Nicely said, Paul. Glad to hear it. You deserve all the success coming your way. Sometimes balancing a day job with writing has to be done. The important thing is, you are involved in what you love. And there's progress! Thanks for the post - very inspiring.