Cost is high for class supplies

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By Claudia De Simone

Students struggling to fund class projects should use cheaper materials, said a Ryerson administrator.

“If a student chooses to specialize in bathing suits it’s going to cost a lot less than if she specializes in evening gowns,” Linda Grayson, vice-president students and faculty affairs, told the finance committee meeting last Wednesday.

Grayson says her statement was based on a letter she received from Ira Levine, the dean of the faculty of communications and design.

Levine defended the cost cutting advice.

“I don’t think that money buys a good design, and the best production in the world probably won’t compensate for a lousy script,” he says.

Many fashion design and film students say that it’s hard to get good marks without spending a lot of money.

“We can use cheap fabrics but that would mean a lower mark because it’s worse to sew, falls apart and is flimsy,” third-year fashion student Jennifer Banks says.

The pressure to spend money on class projects is driving some students into debt.

Lucien Matis says it was essential that he go all-out for his avant-garde collection in hopes of making a name for himself. The fourth-year fashion student spent $10,000 to produce five outfits this year, relying on bank loans, awards and savings from his summer job.

Matis says he had grandeur aspirations than designing bathing suits. “Bathing suits are boring,” he says. “No matter how creative you are people don’t say amazing things about bathing suit shows.”

Fashion School Director Mary McCrae says students spend about $1,000 on supplies in first year, which includes a mandatory $600 art kit, about $800 to make evening wear in second year, $1000 in third year and upwards of $1,500 in fourth year. McCrae said Fashion School applicants are made aware of these costs during orientation.

Since the fashion industry has a variety of markets, McCrae says the school trains students to get into a niche of medium-, high- or low-end clothing. Since instructors look at garments in the context of a student’s business plan, money spent is not inherent to good grades, she said.

“We’re just as excited and pleased with colour and design than with all the embellishments students put into it,” she says.

Fourth-year instructor Lucia Dell-Agnese says that many students find sponsors in the industry to donate materials for their collections.

“I think if you really want something there are ways to go about getting it,” she says. Companies that sponsor students get their logos on screens and in pamphlets at the Mass Exodus fashion show.

Grayson says that fourth-year film students may spend up to $11,800 on their projects. “The operative word is may,” she says. “The costs reflect what students choose to spend … If they choose to do a film in colour it’s going to cost more money.”

Fourth-year student Felicia Brooker used her summer savings, maxed out her credit cards and sold homemade jewellery to pay for the $14,000 colour film she wrote and directed.

“I want to come out of film school with something to show for it,” she said.

Brooker spent most of her money on film and renting cars to transport actors and props.

The School of Film has some awards donated by industry companies, but students say they are not enough. Students complain some of the equipment available to them is outdated and many end up renting cameras which can eat up a large portion of a budget.

Film production instructor Peter Gerretsen says he’s never sensed a tension about money issues amongst his students.

“When you spend more money, that means a bigger production and bigger headaches,” he says. “Students who keep projects small and under control are the happiest.”

Like McCrae, Gerretsen says that creativity and money spent are not directly linked and that students can be extra creative and find different solutions.

“We always hear from students who are going into debt but they don’t need to spend $10,000,” Gerretsen said. “Of course they fall in love with a project that can only be done for $10,000.”

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