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Advice from a Full Sail Graduate

Frequently Asked Questions

After hearing that I've attended Full Sail, seeing me walking around wearing my great Full Sail graduation jacket, or visiting this website, people often come to me with questions about the school. I've tried to compile some of the questions I hear most often.

Having gone through the film program, most of the questions relate directly to that program.

Was it worth it?

For me? Definitely. For you? Who knows.

It all depends on what you want to get out of it, and how you go about making that happen. If you just enroll, attend classes, and do only what you have to... then it probably won't be worth it for you. If that's the case, you're probably in the wrong industry anyways.

If, on the other hand, you're excited about the film industry, outgoing, and wanting to learn how to work on a film set... then Full Sail is definitely for you!

Reading the Advice from a Full Sail Graduate article will probably help you answer this question as it applies to you.

Would you do it again?

In a heartbeat!

If I could change things around, I'd have gone directly to University after High School, and obtained a B.S. in Business Administration, prior to attending Full Sail for Film Production.


Yes. The first order of business at Full Sail is to get you up to speed on military time, as you'll be using it for the next year. Your first schedule will say things like 0900-1300 and 1715-2100, which are saying 9am to 1pm and 5:15pm to 9pm, respectively. They main reason for using a 24-hour clock, is because you are scheduled around the clock.

Lectures are usually during daylight hours, but labs can be found anywhere. I'd estimate that over 96% of your scheduled blocks are in 4-hour blocks, with the few remaining blocks in 2-hours segments. The 4-hour blocks start at exact times around the clock, and go until the next block starts. The start times are:
  0100 (1am)
  0500 (5am)
  0900 (9am)
  1300 (1pm)
  1700 (5pm)
  2100 (9pm)
The two-hour blocks start either at those times, or in the middle of them.

You'll almost always have at least two 4-hour blocks to sleep every day. The climax of your program may not obey this, though, and you may find yourself learning to sleep in 4-hour periods.

Then what is the attendance policy like?

The policy is quite strict! You need 90% attendance in order to pass a course. The 80-89% range requires course director approval, a written and approved excuse, and makeup work. If you finish a course with less than 80% attendance, you fail and have no possible remedy, you will have to take the course again at your cost.

If you're more than 15 minutes late, you're marked absent for the 2-hour block. Any 4-hour block will have a break in the middle, and will take a second attendance afterwards (though they may be sneaky and take attendance at the end of class). This means that you really need to be on time!

Don't despair though. I had a terrible time with attendance before Full Sail, and yet I graduated with a 98% attendance rate. If you're smart about it, and you don't spend too much time partying or otherwise impairing yourself (a popular activity for too many students), you'll be just fine. Most course directors are understanding, as long as you are sure to keep them in the loop; communication is key!

Having the support of your peers is also helpful here. I was close to the attendance fail point on an occasion or two, and my classmates helped me pass by making sure I was there on time. I frequently saw people calling other classmates that weren't in class, making sure they're awake or seeing if there's a reason they'll be late.

The industries that Full Sail teaches are all quite strict about promptness. Full Sail further helps prepare you for the real world by having this unique scheduling system.

I want to Direct the 35mm film, how do I obtain the position?

The most critical factors the faculty use are roughly:

  1. Portfolios - Every key position requires you to turn in a portfolio. The requirements for the positions are different for every position. If you want to be DP, expect to show strong aesthetic abilities and a pre-visualization for how you see the film. If you want to Direct, expect not only a pre-visualization, but breakdowns, discussion on mood and theme, etc. Very few of the portfolio items can be developed prior to being given the requirements, so wait until they break it down for you in 16mm Film Production.

  2. 16mm Faculty Review - Few students realize that the 16mm Film Production faculty fill out paperwork on your class. They describe your class (are you a wonderful and driven group, or rowdy and unproductive?), and also every student. A vertical space of about an inch on a piece of paper, has the opportunity to make or break you.

    Obviously, the better you perform in 16mm, the better your chances in receiving your desired position in 35mm... this makes perfect sense; nobody will ever give you a raise because you slacked, hoping that you'll suddenly start performing, to the contrary, they'll give you a raise only if you show how much you can do with little - a basic fact of life.

  3. Interview - The 35mm Feature Film faculty will interview people trying for key positions. Your interview will focus around your portfolio, which they'll question you on. Expect them to take counter point and challenge your ideas. If you want "a dark erie mood" in the film, they'll make you not only clarify exactly how you'd do that, but why on Earth you'd want to do it that way. This is a chance for you to show your creativity and ability to envision the production.

    The interview is also a chance for the faculty to get a feel for who you are. This may well be the first time they've had a chance to meet you. If you show up with worn out jeans and a dirty shirt, they'll definitely extrapolate from that. Look like you belong where you're trying. I had both 'Unit Production Manager' and 'Director of Photography' portfolios being reviewed. When I showed up in a tie, what would the logical preference be? UPM. And that's what I was made.

  4. Film Program Faculty Suggestions - I'm not sure on exactly how this happens. The Course Directors for your previous film courses do have an influence on this process. If you want to be Gaffer, it would really help your case if the Lighting CD not only knew your name, but thought you were the best student in the class.

  5. Peer Review - If you're going out for Director, be ready for your peers to be asked about what they'd think about working under your direction. If you've pissed off your classmates, the 35mm selection committee will definitely find out about it. This process alone may have eliminated one-third of the people trying for Director in my class.

Excel in all these areas, and you'll have a great chance at obtaining a key position of your choice.

Think of it like the popular TV show, Survivor. How do you win? Preparation, planning, participation, alliances, cooperation, teamwork, skill, and cunning. How do you not win? Make it clear that you're playing to win, try to illuminate your peers, burn bridges, not participate, be a jerk, or otherwise draw unfavorable attention to yourself.

Where in Hollywood should I live?

Los Angeles isn't just a city, it's a metropolis! It's quite possible to drive two hours on one interstate, and still be in the city. In fact, the drive south to San Diego is almost entirely metro. Therefore, it's more than just a matter of being in the Los Angeles Metro Area.

For this reason, I've edited a map from Yahoo Maps to highlight areas where you'll be near more production opportunities. If you happen to be graduating with millions of dollars in the bank, you ought to look into the gap between tho two primary sections. Otherwise, the area with the purple tint will be your best bet.

Los Angeles Studio Map and Ideal Living Area

I really enjoy the northern ideal living area; Burbank. Most of the studios have relocated north of the Hollywood mountain into what the locals call The Valley. You won't be working in a studio when you move out there though, so you may want to avoid the congestion they create. The one interstate that crosses the Hollywood mountain is the 101 (seen as the orange line), and is prone to get extremely congested.

If you're going to be pursuing the production route, most of your work will most likely be not only south of the Hollywood mountains, but closer to I-10. This area is more industrial and cheaper to work in, which atracts a lot of the small independent productions.

My personal preference is Glendale; the eastern strip that connects The Valley to the Hollywoods. In the middle of the huge, polluted, crowded, metropolis, you'll find the beautiful Glendale. The city has one of the lowest crime rates in the Los Angeles Metro Area and has a nice non-metro feel to it (closer to what you'd find in San Francisco). Additionally, Glendale connects the two production hubs, making it easy to commute to either. Many freeways are easily accessible from Glendale, and make it almost faster to reach I-10 than from Hollywood.

You didn't make it in Hollywood, so...

I'd probably argue any way you might finish this question.

After graduating in August 2002, I moved to Hollywood (Glendale, California, to be exact) with Erik Wieder. I lived there for several months, paying for bills with credit cards, amassing a huge pile of debt. In just a couple months, my Filmography was starting to grow impressively.

Unfortunately, the nature of the business is to start as a volunteer and work your way into positions and films that pay. This reality and time it takes changes from position to position, person to person. Unfortunately, most production jobs in Hollywood start this way and take a while to build up.

I wasn't able to build it into something that paid my bills in the time I could support myself with my 'nest egg' and on credit. There came a point where I made the decision to stop what I was doing, return to family, and regroup. I decided that I needed to refine my plan of attack, repair my financial situation, and otherwise recover from the adventure.

I'm now in Gainesville, Florida, living with the beautiful woman that will bear a ring as soon as I can afford one. I'm also building my reel, something I didn't have in Hollywood (and that would have helped greatly).

I do plan to return to Hollywood. It may be a couple of years, but I will return.

The advice in this section reflects the result of my own investigation into why I didn't make it the first time out. You've had the opportunity to learn from my mistakes, and the realizations that have come out of it. When I return to Hollywood, I'll follow my own advice, and I will make it.

If you have any questions or comments, please email me. I'm always looking for new Q&A's for this page, and to further develop this advice section.

This article is broken up into four pages:
- Deciding to Attend
- Making the Most of it
- Survival After Graduation
- The Next Step - Networking
- Frequently Asked Questions

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