first off, a HUGE thank you to Mac for being my search function.
and now, the film school debate: Grad School Edition
i want to edit. ten months from now i will have an academic film degree and still have basically nothing on my reel. i couldn't get a job in the industry if i wanted to yet because i have virtually no hands-on training and final cut pro experience is useless in this avid world (plus it's extremely common). i feel like i won't stand out enough in the job market to be able to feed myself by editing.
as for grad school... i'm a good student with a lot going for me except for a reel. the cost/loans don't bug me. fuck it, it's only money. the issue is that i'm only very excited by the prospect of an MFA from Cal Arts, Chapman, AFI, or UCLA but i'm applying to several more. conversely, if i were to get a job at the Whitehouse (an international post firm) or Optimus or something like that i'd take it in a heartbeat even if it was a glorified internship.
winging it post-undergraduate school is absolutely not an option. i'm not interested in working some bullshit job while the dream of editing slowly dies at the feet of no-budget projects. i just want to guarantee that i will be around editing (in school, for work, whatever) over the next few years and i want to be reasonably assured of an employable future. as i stand, i'll be applying to both schools and employers and i'll take whatever seems best at the time. if i get the job(s), then i'll save up and maybe go or maybe not. if i go right away, i will leave grad school with my theory education, plus a reel, plus a terminal degree, plus contacts, not to mention a load of debt.
both avenues seem quite logical given the right opportunity with either, especially re: my lack of technical experience. i welcome any insights, though (especially related to the schools i mentioned above).
edit: what the fuck? that's not an eerie green glow.
Sounds like you're giving it pretty good thought, so I'm sure that if you just continue with this level of research, you'll come to a school you're comfortable with.
This past school year, our school had a lot of alumni who now work in the industry at various levels (I guess the most famous would be Camryn Manheim) come to talk to us. There was an editor who runs her own company, as were a few writers and directors, an agent, some producers, another editor, a former Vice President of Disney, Vice President of Production at Warner Bros., a President of Worldwide Acquisitions at Universal, a guy who made little docs for PBS. Neat stuff.
ANYWAY, the "to grad school or not to grad school" question was a major one. The consensus seemed to be that it's a fine path that offers a nice place to grow, even though it will put you in debt. Since these are all people who had managed to find decent jobs, they didn't really offer a consensus on whether or not it is more likely to get you work. In your case, since you are looking to get more experience, and don't yet have a reel, then indeed it would be very helpful for you. And I guess schools like USC have a solid reputation for getting you work afterwards.
I briefly considered grad school, but as of now I've decided it's not really what I want. The contacts you make are perhaps the most important thing regarding job-getting, but opinions from the group of alumni were basically that you can make good contacts in school or by just jumping straight into the field. Basically, the alternate route if you don't decide to go to grad school is to get a shitty job at an agency or an editing house or wherever, meet people there, complain about your shitty jobs together (this builds a pretty tight bond), and then stay in touch.
They all painted a pretty positive and simple portrait of the industry, actually, which was comforting to me. While no one can know the path their career will take, everyone seemed to agree that the industry is good to people who are smart, reliable, hard-working, and nice to be around, because people will always want to work with you. It sounds simple, but it was essentially The Secret that they wanted to share with us. Apparently a lot of people say that they know this but few stick it out, which is why the few who stick it out, uh, stick out. This is different from "winging it," though. It's more of a dedicated pay-your-dues kind of thing, constantly proving yourself and delivering more than expected at shit jobs until someone notices (but unless you're REALLY unlucky, someone will eventually notice and have a lot of goodwill toward you).
One thing that I did notice out of our group of alumni, though, was that the people who didn't go to grad school (or didn't study film at all) tended to work at studios and make more money, while the grad school people worked independently and were basically still in debt years later (but were getting work and were on their way to getting out of the debt).
But anyway, both your options (either working in the industry or grad school) sound like the right ones, depending on what you're most comfortable with. I'm afraid I can't offer much more insight.