Where did you get your REAL education?

Published on
April 18, 2011
Chris Taylor
"Ideas are only valuable when applied."
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Inspired by Scott Adam’s recent WSJ article on what he really learned in School, I decided to compare my BFA Film Degree to an MBA, through the lens of Entrepreneurship…

I had the pleasure of attending Simon Fraser University for Film School (BFA) in my formative years. I never attended any type of formal business schooling but, in speaking with many people who have (including several MBA graduates), here are my 6 reasons why I believe Film School was more beneficial than business school in becoming a successful entrepreneur:

6. Real World Budget Constraints: As most can attest, school’s expensive enough as it is. Try adding roughly $10k/year in production costs, and you begin to understand how tight our film budgets were. The practice of bringing your vision to life on a very real and very small budget is a reality that all entrepreneurs face. Learning to prioritize, problem solve and negotiate are all essential skills to both small business and student film.

5. Working through Government Policy: When the government’s not getting $30k/day to shut down the streets for your shoot, the liberties you can take tend to be a lot more limited. We shut down a busy street corner in Vancouver for 2 days through cajoling, smiling and playing the student card. Knowing how to work through the government system, (and bend rules) under time constraint is a must have for anyone working in the public sector.

4. Duct Tape and Outside the Box thinking were our best tools: We made due. We had to. We couldn’t always get our hands on the equipment we needed, so we created it instead. Did you know a borrowed wheelchair with slightly deflated tires makes for an excellent camera dolly? Neither did we. Until we tried it.

3. There’s a crucial balance required between skill and innovation: Making a movie requires a lot of technical savvy, no question. But sticking too close to the training manual pretty much guarantees a mediocre, “same-old, same-old” student film. It’s the protégées who push the envelope, challenging what the equipment and actors can do that make a truly stand out classic.

3. Starting with a blank canvas: No one gives you the outline of a script when you start a student film. Instead, you’re staring at a blank piece of paper – a canvas upon which to spew forth your ideas and vision. Collaboratively turning creative thought into a cohesive and entertaining story is much the same as starting a business from scratch. Both require creativity, confidence, and the ability to clearly articulate ideas.

2. Team work through long hours: No one makes a successful film on their own. No one builds a successful business alone either. (despite what the media might tell you). The ability to work together, in close quarters, for long hours and little pay is a a testament to any team, in any field.

1. Vision was a must: Making a movie is insane. Long hours, no pay, and under resourced. The brilliant vision has only a chance of turning into reality, and even then there’s no guarantee the public will accept it. Sounds a lot like starting a business….

I’m not against business school. I’m sure there are some great lessons in there, and that some of the schools are designed to encourage and develop creative thinking… some of them. My big lesson here though is that there is an education in every course you take, every experience you have. It’s simply a matter of recognizing it, honing it, and using it as a tool in your personal quest for greatness.

What did you really learn in school?