It’s has been a few months since I graduated from Hunter College with my M.F.A in Film Production. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, man I can not believe I finished. It feels very much like finishing directing and releasing a feature-length film. You feel, exhausted and overwhelmed. There are so many little things that needed to be completed that it feels endless. It’s not the length of the film I’ve submitted, it’s the round after round of changes and it’s not the academic paper that went with it, it’s again, the round after round of changes. This is something I have had to do in my professional career but it started to wear on me and it was compounded by the epidemic. It’s like the mental version of overeating. When I look back on it I feel full, like “Yuck, I couldn’t eat another bite.”
I was pretty burned out towards the end. Keep in mind I’ve been in school for seven years, first to turn my A.S. degree in the a B.A. and then to pursue my M.F.A. I’m proud that I did it. As a matter of fact part of me doesn’t even understand how I had the drive to do it. I get nauseous just thinking of it. I think it’s because I didn’t know what was coming next, there was always a surprise, a fire to out and a project that was due. It was a humbling experience for sure. I was working on my tenth feature film during my time at Hunter but no one really seemed to care. I had to do directing exercises and video projects like everyone else. Even though I was a CBS News editor, a Lecturer and had worked on Emmy nominated shows when it came to a broadcast class, I still was treated like everyone else. If I wasn’t raising a child and working full-time during a pandemic I think this degree would have seemed much easier.
Without going too much into detail having an M.F.A. may have very little effect on my job in the Film & TV department at my college (and it deeply saddens me) but I now have the same level of education as my fellow lecturers and professors. Some things are just out of my hands at the moment but I am hopeful that things will change in that regard. In the end I went back to school to prove that I could. As you approach middle-age there seems to be less doors of opportunity open to you, this is not bad necessarily, it makes you choose more carefully which ones to pursue. I had an opportunity to go back to school so I took it and not everyone has that luxury. The M.F.A is a strange degree… graduate art school. I’m lucky to be so indulgent.
My Thesis film entitled MacLeod is completed. It’s about the king of Royalty-free music Kevin MacLeod! I’m competing in about thirty film festivals. I really have to thank my wife Stephanie and also Tim Kulig for producing and believing in the film. I really wasn’t going to push this film but Tim made sure we did a full festival run. Also I have to thank Lloyd Kaufman and Thom Demicco from Troma Entertainment who distributed the film and entered us into a few festivals as well! This was a good feeling, to have people believe in you. Also my tenth feature film VHS Massacre Too winner to twenty film festival awards will be released through Troma hopefully this summer!
For anyone thinking of going back to school I think it could be a good idea if you can find a reasonable priced program. In state public colleges can have relatively affordable film programs for those who want to a former education in film production and hold a degree (Many media jobs are corporate these days and require a B.A.). That average CUNY undergraduate student typically graduates with less than 10K in student debt. I was surprised how much it helped my self esteem. For most of my career I’ve have had what most people would call impressive work experience working in various networks and studios but I never felt up to par with my education. I just needed that box checked to feel more well rounded, not only in my film career but my academic career. Not everyone needs that of course, but I did.
For those who are interested I appeared on the Chris & Chris Podcast to talk about the 2002 Don Coscarelli film Bubba Ho-Tep! Elvis Presley and “JFK” stay in a nursing home where nothing happens…until a wayward Egyptian mummy comes and sucks out the old people’s souls thru their a-holes. The two decide to fight back.