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How Useful Is Our TVF Degree?

CSULA TVF Department Website

Anny Haro, Contributor

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Every college student wants to ensure that the four to five years they spent at the university were worth it. We want reassurance that the classes we took to achieve our degree taught us everything we need to know about our specialty and give us confidence to make it in the real world. That doesn’t seem to be the case with the TVF degree from CSULA, at least to a certain degree. As an aspiring cinematographer, I don’t feel that I’ve been taught the essential tools to succeed in that field.

About six months ago, I really wanted to spend more time on my cinematography skills  amping up my portfolio. I bought a handful of new lenses for my camera in hopes of achieving a better and sharper image to my videos. I went out and shot digital content and small videos. When I put the videos together, I compared them with other students on YouTube and realized my videos were crap. Why? I’m in my fourth year at CSULA; shouldn’t my videos be up to par with other film students?

After many hours of watching other cinematographers on YouTube, I realized that I really don’t know much about cinematography. How is that? I’m a television and film major! I began to reflect on my last four years and analyzed the types of classes I took. I concluded that I’ve taken 10 lecture classes and only five hands-on production classes. Many students don’t want to be film and television historians or mass communication theorists or gender and race analysts. We want to be out on the field making television shows, commercials, motion pictures, etc. So why are we taking so many analytic classes and not enough production classes?

Although I’m a fan of taking more production classes, I still don’t feel the ones I’ve taken have been too helpful. Yes, we’ve taken classes that have taught us how to work in a tv studio with a three-camera setup. Awesome. We’ve taken classes that have taught us how to work with a Canon XF100 to shoot a short film and many more. All of this is great universal knowledge to have as a television and film major but how do they help our current situation as student filmmakers? Many of us don’t even own a $2,000 camera like the XF 100. Most of us have DLSR’s, yet I haven’t taken a class that can show me how to use my DSLR to it’s fullest potential. I had to rely on YouTube tutorials to show me how change my DSLR setting to shoot in certain lighting, to shoot in slow motion, etc. When we do take these production classes?

We are taught how to fully assemble, use and dissemble a tripod. Again, great universal knowledge to have, but tripods are rarely used when doing cinematography. Many filmmakers, especially freelance, use stabilizers like steadicams, three-axis gimbals, etc. When I bought my first steadicam a few months ago, I had no idea how to assemble it, balance it or even use it properly. Again, I had to rely on YouTube tutorials. Why wasn’t I taught this at my university where I’m majoring in television and film?

My graduation is only six months away, I’m extremely nervous and somewhat disappointed that I was not able to obtain the proper knowledge in school to achieve in cinematography. I’ve spent the last few months watching endless YouTube videos and obtaining more knowledge in a 15 minute video than I did the past three years at CSULA. I understand that there is more that goes into a TVF degree than just making videos. However, I do feel that our last year especially should focus on a specialization area. Myself as well as other aspiring cinematography students should be spending our last year knowing the ins and outs of all things cinematography. This is an issue that should be of concern to our TVF department. If we take 10 lecture classes, we should take 10 production classes. It should be fair and balanced but most importantly, our degree should help us thrive in the tv/film industry.

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How Useful Is Our TVF Degree?