Issue: December 1, 2007


Schools are offering students hands-on learning and the skills needed to make the transition from student to pro. Young, talented and trained people are a hot commodity these days, but competition is fierce; schools are recognizing that and incorporating that aspect into their coursework.

Training centers know that even working professionals can’t sit on their laurels. As software changes, the need to learn that software and all it offers is imperative. Whether you are just starting a career or growing it, you should never stop learning.


Jonathan Fung

Associate Director

School of Motion Pictures & Television

Academy of Art University

San Francisco

The School of Motion Pictures & Television at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco offers accredited undergraduate and graduate degree programs that emphasize seven different areas of production for students to study and gain hands-on production experience to prepare them for the industry.

STRENGTHS: “A lot of emphasis is being put on education in motion pictures and television, visual effects, gaming, and art and design. These fields of studies have exploded because of the gained interest and career opportunities. Since the days of the apprenticeship are long gone, one has a choice to enter into the industry without experience and hope for the best, or attend art school and acquire the necessary skills, learn to collaborate, network, seek valuable internships and build a strong portfolio.”

WEAKNESSES: “Sometimes in education, many of the same projects are assigned to students, which creates a similar look for their portfolio. It may not distinguish or develop their style, and the work can look the same when students show their reel or portfolio to potential clients. I think it’s important for the institution to help guide the students to find their voice and personal style that creates a unique look so it does not become cookie cutter.”

OPPORTUNITIES: “In art and design universities, the curriculums are very specific in helping the student reach their career goal. The curriculum is tailored around specific departments in the industry. For instance, in a program like ours, students declare an emphasis or track during their fourth semester. They start to learn how to become a producer, director, cinematographer, editor, screenwriter, production designer or actor. Many of classes in the last two years of the program are focused to create a competitive reel. Students establish skills that will allow them to become a specialist in the industry when they leave the university.

“From my experience, some of the state-funded universities or colleges don’t have that luxury. Many of the students find that during the first two years they are taking liberal arts or theory-based classes and they do not receive hands-on experience until their fifth semester junior year. At the Academy of Art University, from the first semester students are getting production experience.”

THREATS: “Depending on the curriculum, if the university has more of a liberal arts focus, then I don’t believe the students will be prepared for career opportunities unless they acquire the skills on their own because the program may be very general. In the industry, everything is very specific and focused. You need a specific skill-set in order to get hired. They are looking for the best, and students that are professional and have strong business practices. The job opportunities are out there, but you have to pay your dues and be tenacious.”

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: “The industry is unsettled and can go in many directions. I think the independent market is starting to thrive — short films. There are many venues right now for short films, especially online and in film festivals. Many of the advertisers are putting more of their dollars into Internet advertising instead of network television. Podcasting is very popular. There are many more alternatives and methods to screening, selling and distributing the work… getting it out there. There is definitely a group of visionaries and entrepreneurs out there who can really dictate the market.

“I don’t think it’s stable right now. The networks are trying to get a jump on this. Just like with reality TV when it started, people were skeptical, but look what happened with that. Everyone is jumping on it. We are going to see a new wave, and we are seeing some of it now, in film, media and the arts.”

Ben Noel

Executive Director

University of Central Florida

Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy


Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) is a graduate program in videogame development, instructed by industry veterans, focused on developing highly-skilled programmers, artists and producers for the growing interactive industry.

STRENGTHS: “The strength we have is demand. There is a growing desire for young people to work in creative industries and make their own products. It’s always been there. Once we all started watching movies, and sports, we longed to work in entertainment, but 40, 30, 20 years ago that was reserved for Hollywood; the people who lived in Hollywood and the children of people who worked in Hollywood. In today’s world, as far as games and movies, because it’s done in a digital world now and the cost of the equipment and assets is not exorbitant like it used to be, we have a lot of students who would love to make games, movies and commercials, and now they can.”

WEAKNESSES: “Usually education isn’t on the forefront of leading trends. It reacts to trends, so we are in the reaction mode right now. One of the weaknesses is that digital media schools, film schools, computer science schools and game schools are just not mature enough and haven’t done the things necessary in terms of programs to bring in technology and get up to speed quick enough to run with the industry.

“I think education will do that. We did that with MBA schools in the ‘80s and ‘90s. They started to do some real cutting edge stuff and caught up real quick, and we need to do the same thing in entertainment and digital media.

“You have to spend money on technology, and schools get set in their ways and everybody gets their own little budget, but they don’t refocus their whole programs. That’s one of the beauties of FIEA; we got to start from scratch and create a program and we had the funding to do it.”

OPPORTUNITIES: “We have an opportunity to train the next generation of workforce to be higher wage creative workers. As mentioned before, one of the strengths is we have a pent up demand, and the opportunity is there are a lot of young people who don’t wish to go work for General Motors. They aren’t sure what they want to do, but they do know they would like to be their own thinker work on teams, create start-up companies and work in different environments.

“Globally, the opportunity is here. People are making great livings, working in great businesses and creating great friendships and products because they can multitask; they can work on projects around the world and do things in a lot of different ways than it used to be, where it was traditionally, go to school, and your lucky if you get hired and go into a training program at a bigger company, learn a lot there and maybe 10 or 15 years later go out and start your own thing.”

THREATS: “The threat we have is just taking too long. We’ll figure this out over time — it might take 100 years to figure out the right way to educate our students. Study after study is coming out saying that we are using 100-year-old systems to educate our young people. And we all recognize that. We don’t have 100-year-old communication devices in our home, so the threat really is timing. The millennials are growing up, and they are driving us. They are the customer.

“Many say education can’t change, things won’t change…but they do change and you change because of the customer. The students today are screaming for stuff that’s more interactive and less boring. When we were kids, school was boring but there weren’t a lot of answers out there, now there are and now it’s about how quickly can we move to them.

“The threat isn’t really that the bureaucratic systems can’t change and won’t change over time, the threat is we don’t do a good job of corralling that and moving it forward faster.”

OUTLOOK FOR 2008: “You are still going to see a lot more casual gaming, people playing the Wii, and the broadening of the game market. All of this broadening just helps education, medical and military agencies broaden. You will see a lot more of those industries training people in simulations and interactive ways over the next decade.

“In the entertainment community, you will see more of what you are already seeing, more software and tools, such as the mass crowd generators and the blending of 2D and 3D, and better ways of telling a story — trying to tell a story with 2D and 3D animation or 3D art and using audio and sound for a more blended experience. We are finally getting to a point at which interactive and digital tools are maturing where creatives, other than just the tech gurus, can use them. The millennials are going to have fun.”


David Gater


Soho Editors

New York

Soho Editors, with offices in NY, London and Dublin, was founded in 2000 as a provider of freelance talent to the global post industry. They have since expanded to provide certified training for the industry.

STRENGTHS: “The industry’s rapid shift into new platforms and applications is creating a high demand for professional training. Inexpensive, streamlined equipment is leading to more accessible, hands-on training. An experienced editor can learn and become certified in a new application in as little as three days. Manufacturer certifications offer a unique benchmark — they take the guesswork out of an editor or designer’s true skill level.

“Ten years ago, training consisted of several trainees hovering around one system; now they all have their own workstation. As new editing platforms become more prevalent, trainees can now practice their skills at home rather than in an on-site edit facility.”

WEAKNESSES: “Methods of training can vary widely — from DVDs to books to one-on-one classroom training. Not to say there is a right or wrong way for teaching an application, but many people have different ways of learning and require different time frames. One editor may learn a new application in three days, whereas it may take another six weeks. The key is finding the correct balance — it can be difficult for someone to figure out which method [or combination of methods] works best for them. Also, there is a difference in teaching someone how to use an application and a craft.”

OPPORTUNITIES: “Increased accessibility to equipment will lead to a larger pool of aspiring editors who will seek out professional training. As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, software and tools will become even more intuitive. We have never seen more applications on the market that do virtually the same thing as we do now.

“Industry leaders, such as HBO, are upgrading their editing applications and require training for their entire department. It is a very exciting time right now, as we don’t see the need for training declining — it continues to increase, prompting more people to be trained. These days [we’re seeing] more applications on the market than ever. We have five or six editing applications that people need to be trained for, so that increases our business ten-fold.”

THREATS: “How simple can an application become? Applications are now being developed for the consumer rather than the skilled professional. As a result, everyone thinks they are an editor and that they do not need training. Also, consumer generated content — led by YouTube — is on the rise. Are users drawn more toward low-budget, five-viral videos cut on iMovie than longform, highly polished documentaries finished with Flame? It remains to be seen.”

OUTLOOK 2008: “Technology never stops changing, and the drive for knowledge of applications is ever increasing. Gone are the days when an editor could get away with just knowing one application. For example,Final Cut Studio 2 is distributed and packaged with five applications, all of which are powerful in their own right. Clients are now expecting editors to be fluent not just in Final Cut, but also the programs bundled with it. The future looks bright.”

Randy Paskal

Managing Director


Hollywood/New York

Moviola offers one-on-one, individualized fillmmaking training for directors, writers, producers, actors, cinematographers, and/or anyone making a career change.

STRENGTHS: “The obvious strength that we see is that, especially in the post production business, technology continues to change and with those software changes, whether they be with Avid, Adobe or Apple products, professionals need to be updated about the new features and the complexities that exist with those products.

“At Moviola, one of our strengths is that our training is taught by professionals for professionals. We are looking at people who are already experts working in the industry — in order for them to maintain their high level of skills and, hopefully, be paid for that expertise, the more they need to understand how the products work and what they can actually use out of those products. So they will continue to need that specialized type of training.

“Another strength is the introduction of the variety of different high def formats that currently exist and that are promised in the near future. There is a need to understand the way people are going to utilize the different formats and bring them in to post. The workflow is different for almost every product that is being introduced on the acquisition side, so when it comes to post there is really going to be a greater need for this training. Especially with the P2 and Sony technologies, as well as Red and the other products that are coming out — the question is how to bring those high def acquisitions into post.”

WEAKNESSES: “Training is an expensive proposition, and making people see the the value of training is sometimes a challenge. Yet as products change it’s obvious that you can’t use the product as it currently exists, and there is a need for that learning process to occur.

“Another weakness is marketing. We need to get people to understand that if they continue to keep their skills at a very high level, they can provide a better product to their clients.

“With the current writers’ strike and the other looming strikes, a lot of people see it as an opportunity to use this time to do training, but then there are some who have to think about pulling in the reins and doing very little outside spending.”

OPPORTUNITIES: “More people continue to turn to professional types of media solutions and incorporate those into their products, not just on the post side with feature films, TV shows and commercials, but also in the financial sector, corporate presentations and other areas where more video will be required. It’s a good opportunity for us to go after those types of clients.

“Another opportunity is that once people realize how dynamic it is and how many products are involved, they’ll see that it’s worth spending a few extra dollars on that investment to train themselves better.”

THREATS: “The only potential threat is people not valuing classroom training or one-on-one type training. There are people who feel as though they can do a lot of training online and we are always competing against that format. However, we really do think the hands-on approach and working in a collaborative environment certainly is the best way to learn and share ideas with other students.”

OUTLOOK 2008: “We view the market for training as a growing market, and that people need to stay up to date with the new software releases. There will certainly be a need for people to learn, and with the continued migration into high definition and figuring out the workflows into post production, there should be a fair amount of opportunity for us to grow our training services, do seminars, and create some special courseware that addresses those unique issues.

“As for the industry in general, I just don’t think we are going to see a lot of change in either direction, unless the strike affects us.”