A few years ago I was invited to speak for a morning at a leading film school somewhere faraway in a terribly dangerous corner of the world. (It’s in a country I cannot/shall not name for political and sensitivity reasons.)
The school is part of a vast collective of film schools that are scattered across the globe, each providing international film/tv learning under the same brand and banner.
My two sessions went fine, with a group of perhaps 20 young people crowded into a computer lab on a hot, but quiet Saturday. These were very bright, inquisitive students, some of whom went to the school, others attending our short seminar as visitors. As I still remember, it was a good group; just a small handful of “twenty-somethings” poised with promising creative, artistic & technical talent.
The school itself was very impressive at first glance. I was given the full tour of large sound stages, professional editing rooms, audio mixing booths. Lights, camera, action seemed to be everywhere.
After both my time and tour were done I started asking a few questions to students, in a private but informal way.
“Great facilities and equipment, cameras, gear, tools. How is the school?,” I asked.
Over and over students told me they were very disappointed in their education. The school lacked good teaching. Yes, great facilities; but lousy courses, inadequate teachers.
It was easy to understand: The film school had spent money on state-of-the-art equipment plus the bricks & mortar of studios…but failed to hire competent faculty. Why not? Was it that their professor pay was too low to attract qualified professionals? To be fair, perhaps there was just a small pool of available professors. Ok, was it lack of vision from leaders? If so, they’d spent the majority of their funds on buildings and equipment to attract prospective students. Maybe after they’d spent so much, there was nothing left for people. It’s happened before many many times.
I walked away shaking my head. “What a waste,” I thought. “Didn’t have to be this way. Great on the outside, lousy on the inside. It was a magician’s act of smoke & mirrors. An illusion. A charade.”
To fix the dilemma would be one part easy, one part difficult: Find really good people who are exceptional teachers. Pay them a fair, decent salary. Let them pour all of what they know (and their years of wisdom) into students’ minds and hearts.
When it’s all done, it’s the teaching that makes the difference in a student’s education. Not the studios, cameras or computers.
You can have the biggest, shiniest ship in the world…but unless you’ve got a tremendous crew & captain?