Getting an MFA after a JD?

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Getting an MFA after a JD?

Postby kpuc » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:01 pm

I plan to go to law school to study entertainment law because I would like to go into film production. However, I would also like to get involved in the creative aspect of filmmaking (I see production as my way of financing my creative aspirations). In that case, would it be wise to get an MFA after obtaining a JD? I was thinking of getting one from either USC (Stark program) or NYU. Or would it be just a waste of time?

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Re: Getting an MFA after a JD?

Postby sdv » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:20 pm

my theatre professor got his MFA at Columbia - he shared with me this story:

About 10 years ago, he got a call from someone in the development office at Columbia, informing him they were building a new theater and looking for donations. He figured, sure, I'll write them a check for a hundred bucks - but the person then went on to inform him that they were asking for a minimum donation of $10,000. His response? "you probably shouldn't call the MFA graduates - try calling the people who dropped out of your MFA program and went to law school instead..."

Having spent the last 3 years trying to get an MFA before giving up and going to law school, here's my 3 pronged advice:

Firstly, getting into law school is as difficult as getting into preschool compared to the difficulty of actually getting into a top MFA program. Every field is different, but at least with theatre directing (which was my field of interest) the top schools (yale, northwestern) expect a minimum of 3 years of experience in the industry before even considering your application. Other fields are easier, but I would imagine an MFA in film from USC or nyu would be among, if not THE most difficult MFA program to get into that exists (hyperbolize much, I ask myself?). The majority of programs are free to attend, pay a stipend, and accept one or two people a year (many directing schools take one or two people every 3 years). Getting an MFA isn't like getting a regular Masters degree - you have to demonstrate considerable artistic aptitude and demonstrated success in order to gain admission.

Secondly, there's no money in it. Sure if you become the best in the business there is, but getting a job in the arts, besides the fact that it's 2 shades shy of impossible without considerable luck and connections, is no way to pay back law school loans. Especially when one factors in living in one of the two most expensive cities in the country. It's a poor life plan.

Thirdly, if you can get in to one of those programs, and you can pay for law school, do it. Chase your dream, why the hell not. But if it were me I would wait until I'd paid off my law school loans first.

Also, just to throw this out there, no amount of MFAs will necessarily inspire a job in entertainment law without several years of experience in corporate or IP law first. There's not enough money in the entertainment industry to waste on training - it's not a specialty that is easy (or even possible, as I understand it) to break into straight from school. If you're set on that path, I'd get a corporate law job in LA, pay off loans and get WE, then go to grad school (assuming you're brilliantly talented), then start applying to entertainment type jobs.

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Re: Getting an MFA after a JD?

Postby 20160810 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 4:47 pm

One of my professors has both an MFA and a JD, so I asked her about this. She basically said that in the real world, you need to choose a career. There's really no way you're going to be the Scorsese of biglaw. It's kinda one or the other. If you were into writing or painting or something, I'd say that there's no reason to give up something creative that you love since you can do it when you're not working, but I just don't see filmmaking and law practice as coexisting well.

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Re: Getting an MFA after a JD?

Postby NoleinNY » Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:08 pm

The only caveat to the above would be if you tried going the Grisham route (read: writing stories) or did documentary projects on the side. Of course, it would have to be out of passion and not profit. For example: a professor at my UG's law school has produced a doc or two, which were related to his area of focus (director of Human Rights law -- documentary on human rights abuses).

That said, a JD -->MFA doesn't sound worth it unless you really want both.

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Re: Getting an MFA after a JD?

Postby Pearalegal » Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:18 pm

As someone who was raised on a tv set, and the majority of my family is in the entertainment mother and father (who both do some prospective hiring for their production companies) always tell my friends to come to them for advice NOT to get an MFA unless its a purely intellectual pursuit after you already have a solid financial footing in your career. An MFA is not a professional degree, and helps out surprisingly little in hiring.

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Re: Getting an MFA after a JD?

Postby toolfan » Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:53 pm

Are we going to dance our debt away?

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Re: Getting an MFA after a JD?

Postby NayBoer » Wed Jun 02, 2010 6:07 pm

Might as well get your MD, MBA, LLM, PhD and DDS while you're at it. Become friends with QE2 to see if you can get KBE as well.

Pick one and be good at it. Degrees don't equal success or talent.

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Re: Getting an MFA after a JD?

Postby 20160810 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 6:47 pm

The way I see it, you can do both, but you should only go to law school. You don't need an MFA to be a writer (or painter, or what have you), but you do need a JD to be a lawyer.

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Re: Getting an MFA after a JD?

Postby nealric » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:47 pm

Every 3rd law school applicant wants to do entertainment law. Perhaps one in 500 will ever practice entertainment law.

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