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Nearly 3,000 miles separates Comm Ave from the corner of Hollywood and Vine, but film industry insiders have taken note of the College of Communication’s film and television program. The Hollywood Reporter recently ranked COM 11th in its third annual survey of the country’s Top 25 Film Schools. The ranking marked a sharp advancement for the program, which last year was listed simply as a “program to watch.”
“This ranking verifies that this has been a very successful program for a long time,” says Paul Schneider, a COM professor and chair of film and television. “It really puts us in company with the country’s very best programs. It’s great to be on the list.”
The influential entertainment industry trade magazine cited how COM undergrads study film, television, and new media simultaneously, with equal access to a full range of courses. It also lauded COM’s Los Angeles Internship Program—part of BU Study Abroad—which enrolled a record 91 students last spring. Last, the Hollywood Reporter (THR) noted the film and television department’s graduate Media Ventures program, which staged its third annual “pitch fest” at the LA campus, where students had an opportunity to meet with top companies like AOL, HBO, and Yahoo!
To compile its rankings, THR editors asked industry insiders to rate film programs nationwide. An online ballot was also sent to members of the Writers Guild of America, West, the American Cinema Editors, and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. More than 600 ballots were returned, and those responses factored heavily in the final rankings.
The University of Southern California, the American Film Institute, and New York University earned the top three spots on the list.
Schneider says that the high ranking underscores the importance of the program’s plans to update both its facilities and its technology. “Hardly anyone shoots film anymore, and you can’t just think that you are going to become a TV writer for a network or a feature film director,” he says. “We work at preparing students for a workplace that involves new media and the internet. There is an enormous crossover between all the mediums, so we want to break down those barriers.”
A member of the Directors Guild of America for 24 years, Schneider believes that one factor responsible for the program’s 11th-place ranking is the internship program, which connects students to jobs as interns at companies like 20th Century Fox and the Weinstein Company and TV shows like Conan. Students work during the day, and then take classes at night. Schneider estimates that within a year of graduation, 60 to 70 percent of the students enrolled in the program have a job. “It’s our best job route,” he says.
Three years into its existence, classes were being held in a small LA apartment, recalls program director Bill Linsman. But with enrollment on the rise, COM decided to rent office space in a huge complex of media companies, increasing its visibility in the industry and helping more students land internships.
The program prides itself on teaching students the importance of networking. “The entertainment business is usually who you know,” Linsman says. “Our students meet everyone, and they are encouraged to put their hand out and then follow up with an email. We try to open up the door for a dialogue for people in the business.”
Linsman affectionately calls the program “LA on Training Wheels,” because it gives students a chance to familiarize themselves with LA’s unique culture. “Many of our students have been able to jump into the industry after graduation, and that word of mouth in turn boosts enrollment in COM,” he says. “Kids tell me it’s changed their life.”