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Film schools a maze of varied opportunities

Tuition is soaring, but what are students getting for their buck?

A terrific film program at AU's School of Communication, reports Noel Murray in the October 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

American University
School of Communication, Film & Media Arts Department

Tuition: $31,000

Unique advantages: Strong, socially active documentary studies; access to network news organizations; "Summer in L.A." internship program

Ideal for: Politically active storytellers. Larry Kirkman, the dean for the School of Communication, touts AU's blended curriculum, which gives equal emphasis to filmmaking, journalism and public communications. Kirkman also cites the school's embrace of cutting-edge media like mobisodes, and ultimately, he says, "Hollywood or Washington, you use the same tools."

A word from an alumna: Danielle Gelber, senior vp original programming at Showtime, says, "I found it to be the most personalized, hands-on program. You could go to school in the ivory tower in the morning and then drive down the street that afternoon and be field-producing stories for network news."

Mentors key for film school grads

AU's School of Communication adds value to the classroom experience with Summer in LA and an Alumni Mentoring Program that jump-starts careers.

Lindsay Webster took advantage of American University's Summer in L.A. internship program and AU's mentorship program in consecutive years. Through the former, she had the chance to work for "Bones" executive producer Barry Josephson on the Fox lot. (Josephson says he enjoys helping interns because he "knows what it's like to get a break" and because "it's a reflection of yourself when you were young.") Through the latter, she received guidance from Showtime's senior vp original programming Danielle Gelber, who later got Webster a job on the network's "The L Word," where she's currently an associate producer.

"Rarely do you have an experience that just sets your life track into place, but those programs really did," Webster says. "Basically, the internship was a hands-on experience of how to work in a production office and handle that first job, that assistant desk job. I got to fill in for Barry's real assistant, handle phones, roll calls, keep phone sheets and expenses and pretty much get to understand the pace of how everything happens. These are things you don't learn in school."

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