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Recently I was asked what it was about my experience at Columbia that has surprised me the most.  It didn’t take me very long to come up with an answer.

What surprises me the most about my experience at Columbia, what I never expected or dreamed of as I prepared to enter graduate school, is how much love, loyalty, dedication, and camaraderie there is amongst my class of producing students.

When I was researching film schools, I came across all sorts of horror stories.  I read about schools in which students would scratch and scrape at each other to get ahead, where they had to cut each other down in order to grasp for a coveted top spot in order to receive funding for their projects.  I read about schools in which everyone seemed to operate like separate lone wolves, cut off from the others in the program, merely showing up to class and privately planning how to get ahead.  I read stories told by film school students about factions and fragmentation growing in their graduate cohorts, the result of ugly competitiveness and pettiness.

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What I found from my fellow students when I arrived at Columbia on day one couldn’t be further from these stories.  We Creative Producing students have each others’ backs.  Period.  Our bond is so tight, and there is so much mutual respect and admiration shared amongst us, that the feeling is any of us would gladly take a hit for anyone in the group.

I have a fairly independent personality myself, and so I didn’t understand before enrolling at Columbia how important it will be for me, and for my career, to be a part of such a group.  Movies take an incredible amount of time, energy, and money to get made.  As producers, we need help.  We can’t do it all alone.  We need people on our side, on our team.  We need to have someone to call when shit hits the fan to help us out.  That’s one reason in the professional world that movies often have more than one producer attached to a project.  It makes things easier, and it can broaden a project’s possibilities.

As I develop projects and explore how to get them made, I know that I have a pool of 13 others who have been in the trenches with me, who have shared the experiences and training that I’ve had, and who are freakishly talented that I can reach out to for help or to ask for their perspective.  I know that I will be able to reach out to these people as we grow in our careers over the coming years.  I won’t be surprised in the slightest if I end up working for one of them from time to time, and they for me.

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As I walked through the halls of Columbia on day one, I never expected that looking back I would find that the value of my experience here was not just about education, about becoming a professional producer.  I never thought that what I would come to treasure most here was community: a professional community that I will be a part of throughout my career.

And of everything I’ve gained so far from being at Columbia, that means more to me than anything.