Lights, Camera...Drop Out?

During a late-night study session with my Italian group a few weeks back, we all started talking about registration and whether or not we’d continue our pursuit of the language. When we got to my friend Vincent Knauf, he kind of shrugged and said he was thinking of dropping out.

My interest was piqued, so I asked him why.

“I’m a film student. It’s not that I don’t want to do the work, there just…isn’t any work to do. There’s just more out there.” And that was it for the night.

But it kept gnawing at me. Considering I’d heavily contemplated not going to college for some time, I was interested in exploring the side of another with similar thoughts. It had also stuck with me that he mentioned being a film student as part of it, as though maybe UCF wasn’t all that great at giving him what he needed. I mean, if you think about it, film is at least one of the easier fields to manage with no degree. So, after about a week of building up the courage, I asked Vincent for an interview:

How are you today?

"I’m pretty good! Just go out of class, got to sleep in. Even got some laundry done!"

We love to hear it. Alright, let’s get into it. What are some of your favorite things to do?

"Anything where I can be social. I like being with my friends, and if we can’t necessarily see each other we’ll play video games together. I also like going out, not even to do anything. I just like being outside. I make music, but never really finish anything, and I like watching movies and TV, but I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t." 

True. You know, I really do have to watch more movies, that’s my pop culture flaw. Can I ask what got you into film out of everything?

"I was never into film, but all of my friends were. I was always in band, I’ve got this huge connection with music. But senior year of high school I finally caved and took our digital media production class. It’s really good actually, the program. I really liked it, but even then that’s not what I started off with in college."

Oh, really? You went to another school up north, right? What’d you do?

"I was studying engineering because I enjoyed calculus…sure. Then I did elementary education until I realized I didn’t want to go through all of school just to go back to it, and all my friends were in film. So honestly, I went “Why don’t I just do film?” After my first year I left, it was just getting too expensive. I did last year at Valencia, and now I’m here. When I got to Valencia I was told I had to get my AA in general studies and my AS in film production technology, which wasn’t even true, but I’m here now!"

Back and better than ever, baby. Tell me about your coursework for the film classes, what’s something you have to do for them?

"So I’m in film history, editing and script analysis. Film history and script are a lot of readings, and film history means watching movies that I don’t want to watch because no one’s telling me why they matter. I wish we could have discussions, and talk about whether or not we thought it’d be a good movie based on the screenplay, things like that. But honestly, it just feels like a lot of busywork. And then there’s editing, where I don’t feel like I’m doing anything of my own. We get old clips, kind of throwaways, and just have to piece them together. It’s hard to feel like I’ve produced anything good, and no, we don’t even get to film anything on our own. I’m not really learning about how editing can further the meaning of things or anything, because I can’t choose a clip for a certain reason, nor are we talking about different ways to do that. If you’re working as an editor, I know you won’t really always be editing your own stuff, but for an intro class, it feels as though it’s not being catered to us properly."

This sounds…incredibly repetitive. You seem to only be getting the technical aspects of film, rather than anything experiential. Knowing these are intro classes, do you feel as though if you had chosen to continue the program, you would be getting less of the technical and more of the hands-on?

"That’s the thing, I really don’t. It’s part of what solidified my decision. Just last week, I was on set of a music video, and I feel like that’s more of what I should be doing. In terms of a film program as a whole, I don’t even feel like I’d be learning as much as I did with just a couple days as only a production assistant. They do all of it through the creative lens where they’re setting up audio in a way that’s in sync with everything else, or where the lights function perfectly for a scene. I want to learn more of that, not just how to plug in a light and what it does. Honestly, maybe I don’t have a problem with the technical, but it’s not for me."

Is that what made you want to leave school? Realizing that this isn’t the way you want to learn? How long have you thought of it?

"I’ve heard from several students that the program just isn’t sufficient for what I want to learn. There’s even kids who came from Valencia, came here, and transferred back. Just to get experience on set. And honestly, I’ve been thinking about it since like, the second week of class, when we were all sitting in editing and he showed us this awful movie, one that I didn’t like, but that’s regarded as one of the best-edited films of all time. There were a couple students who know about editing that spoke up and said they loved it, and I felt like I couldn’t give my opinion because no one else felt the way I did. It wasn’t my style, and I realized I wouldn’t be getting to explore anything other than an outline." 

Do you have any plans set up for your next step?

"I’m moving. My friends up in Philly, they’re the ones giving me those connects. In January, I’m going to learn how to manage lights on the set of one of their senior projects, and from then on it’s just going to be intense amounts of networking. But at least I’ll have a portfolio, and I’ll get a job like I have here to keep myself afloat during those projects. It doesn’t seem perfect, but I know the projects are more available to me up north." 

How do your loved ones feel about your decision? 

"My parents are actually super supportive. They’ve really helped me realize that getting a degree isn’t necessarily for everybody, which is hard to accept in our society! It was surprising too, since they both sort of…did so much school. It’s scary as hell, but it’s helped. My best friend Trent Nelson, he helped me come to the decision. We’re in all the same classes pretty much, and he just feels the same way I do. We want to do the work, we just don’t think we’re getting anything out of it. The only ones that don’t know are my family up north but, well, they’ll know soon since I’ll be seeing them a lot more often!"

Family reunion! Honestly, you sound pretty sure of yourself. It’s refreshing. I want to thank you for sharing this with me, and opening up about all your opinions. Good luck in all your endeavors!

"Thank you so much for having me! Maybe this will help someone realize what took me a while to come to terms with. And thank you for the well wishes!"

Images: 1, 2, 3