This is topic Academy of Art in SF vs. Vancouver Film School (in... you guessed it, Vancouver) in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

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Posted by Zeugma (Member # 6636) on :
So I'm still wasting and whining away at my ridiculously overpaid but still dull entry-level IT/manual labor job.... this professor here keeps telling me he's going to hire me, but still hasn't given me a real offer. Time to start making other plans.

I've realized what I really want to do with myself right now. I want to go to grad school. I want to pay someone to teach me everything I need to know about how to be an artist and an animator, and hook me up with good ties in the industry.

After a lot of research, I've narrowed my choices down to two schools on the west coast, AAU in SF or VFS in BC. [Wink] I'm wondering if anyone here has experience with either school, to help me decide which is a better fit. Right now I'm going back and forth daily on them. I wouldn't be starting AAU until August 2005, while I could conceivably start VFS as early as spring 2005.

Pros of VFS:
• Only a 1-year program. No wasted time, only one year of tuition.
• Top-notch students and instructors. For a 3D art school, you aren't going to find much better.
• Nice city, Vancouver. Rent would seem cheaper over there, due to exchange rates.

Cons of VFS:
• $30K in loans, period. That's another $200/mo for the next 20 years, plus the $30k I'm already paying off from undergrad. Not much chance of a scholarship.
• Not very good industry connections. Too far away, and they don't seem to work to hard to forge them.
• No summer internship period, which would really hurt. Internships seem like half the point of being a student in the first place.

Pros of AAU:
• You can't beat the location. Pixar offers two classes right there in the school, since they're so close.
• At least two summer vacations, chances to get internships. Also other, longer holidays.
• I want to end up in or near SF eventually, anyhow.

Cons of AAU:
• $20k a year, for THREE YEARS.
• That's also three years of not being around Mark much, if at all. [Frown]
• Very low caliber of students, since they accept 100%. In a lot of ways, it would be like high school again. However, I have seen some very talented people who went there, and a lot of them seem to end up at Pixar.

Sigh. So much money, so much time away from Mark.... There's no way I could bring him to Vancouver (work visas...), and he's got a great job here already, so asking him to pick up and move to SF after just starting this year.... ugh. I'd probably be on my own for a while, which is sad to think about. However, we both know that it's something I need to do, and would be worth it in the long run....

Any advice? Anyone done something like this before?
Posted by katharina (Member # 827) on :
They both sound great, and you're asking for advice so I'm saying this, and take it for what it's worth (what the heck do I know abour relationships?), but I hate the idea of being so far away from your husband - even just for a year. Are there any options where y'all could be together?

If there aren't, I'd say Vancouver is the best bet. There's lots of time to move to San Francisco still, and Vancouver is a blast, would be faster, and would be cheaper. Getting contacts is hard, but there has to be a way to do that doesn't involve two more years and $40,000 more dollars.

There's the Art Institute of Dallas here in town that also has great connections and accepts 100%. They say it is easy to get in and hard to get out. They don't graduate their students unless they think there is really a chance, so it means lots of students end up not graduating and hugely in debt. That's part of the risk - but that explains how they could keep such great connections and still accept everyone. My art-school friends are getting close to graduating and sweating it now.

[ July 22, 2004, 04:40 PM: Message edited by: katharina ]
Posted by Zalmoxis (Member # 2327) on :
Any reason not to go to Cal Arts?

From what I understand, it has much more prestige (and more serious students) than the Academy of Art.
Posted by katharina (Member # 827) on :
I have a friend who went to CalArts and now works in the industry. She absolutely loved it. How does that fit in with the criteria by which you judged the other schools?
Posted by Zeugma (Member # 6636) on :
Ahhh, CalArts.... It actually didn't make it on my initial list, by virtue of the fact that it's in LA. You're right, though... lemme go give it a look-see....
Posted by Zalmoxis (Member # 2327) on :
Here's the thing:

If you really want to do 'creative' work when it comes to animation, then CalArts is much, much better (from what I hear). You'll still start off doing grunt work, of course, but it'll be cool grunt work and you'll be in a better position to move up.

Yes, I'm sure there are plenty of Academy of Art animators who are doing great work and have cool jobs -- but my guess is that many of them are doing really crappy, uncreative animation stuff.

Want to work on movies, games, high-profile commercials? Take a serious look at CalArts.
Posted by Zeugma (Member # 6636) on :
Oi, FOUR years. I don't think I'd qualify for their MFA programs, really... I'd want to get the BFA in character animation. Can you get two bachelor's degrees?
Posted by katharina (Member # 827) on :
You can, but you have to apply specially for it.

What's your degree from Cornell going to be?
Posted by Zeugma (Member # 6636) on :
It was film. I graduated in May 03.

I think maybe it's too late for me for CalArts. It's really what I should have done for my first Bachelor's, and even for that I would have had to have taken lots of art classes in high school. I just can't afford to spend four years on their program when they don't really do much computer animation, even if they are an excellent program. I need something more career-oriented at this point... (and something where they'll teach me how to draw instead of requiring excellent skills for admission). [Frown] Wish I'd figured all this out earlier.
Posted by Zalmoxis (Member # 2327) on :
In that case, I'd say go with Vancouver and expend any excess energy and funds that you can muster in working on industry contacts, finding (and being able to afford to take) a post-grad internship, and other forms of professional development.
Posted by Dagonee (Member # 5818) on :
This is coming with no insider knowledge like Zalmoxis has, and is based solely on your description, so take it with a grain of salt. You want to go where you can get a job. Based on your pros and cons, that sounds like SF.

BUT, you need to investigate further. Get a list of job placements from the last 3 graduating classes of each. See which ones you like best. You are basically going to school to enter a very specialized profession. You want to make sure you are able to do so when you graduate.

You will also have to cultivate contacts on your own. I assume that the skills you learn would be useful in movie/television, advertising, and 3D gaming, right? Make a matrix listing the type of jobs you want with pros and cons. I assume advertising pays more, because people are willing to sacrifice some money to do the other two. Are you willing to do this? If not, make sure you havae a game plan for existing while you find the job you want.

As for the separation, I go to school 2 hours from Eve. We get to see each other almost every weekend. Nowhere near as difficult as a cross country flight. And I can tell you, it sucks. But, it's worth it if it let's you find a job you love going to every day. Don't underestimate the difficulty, though.

Now, one of the reasons I chose the school I did instead of a local one was because I will be geographically limited in scope to the DC area when I graduated. Going to the better school will help immensely, as unfair as that may be to really smart graduates of the less prestigious schools. You need to perform the same kind of analysis.

You need to find out how much the prestige of each school matters and how much is based on your portfolio at the end. You also need to decide if you think you'll learn more/better at one school than the other. Are you going just to get the sheet, counting on your own skills and drive to learn what you need when you need it? Or are you seeking the best possible training? Both strategies are legitimate, and both have pros and cons.


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