Formal education is a verifiable performance of certain rituals of learning but is by no means a conclusive evidence of learning itself which is distinguished from formal education in being definitely ‘meaningful.’ Formal education is like an effective advertisement which may be comprised of myths or facts. Had formal education been a definite evidence of learning, the need for personal interviewing, a globally established practice, would have been nothing more than a superfluous formality. Many directors have never been to college but have learned and accumulated valuable experience. Glimpses over their lives reveal some very enlightening aspects about the value of ‘learning’ irrespective of its being a formal process.
1. Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Johan Ibsen was born to Knud Ibsen and Marichen Altenburg in Skien, Telemark County, on March 20, 1828 and died in Christiania, Oslo, Norway on May 23, 1906 at the age of 78. He was a famous theatre director and writer of the 19th century and is regarded as the founder of modern theatre. His well-known works include: The Master Builder, The Wild Duck, Hedda Gabler, Emperor and Galilean, Peer Gynt, Brand, An Enemy of People, and A Doll’s House. Ibsen intended to matriculate; therefore, he went to Christiania, but he could not get admission into the university as he could not pass the entrance test. Consequently, he turned away from formal education and committed himself to writing, the activity which made him world famous. He influenced great novelists like Eugene O’Neill, James Joyce, Oscar Wild, and George Bernard Shaw. Some critics regard Henrik Ibsen next only to Shakespeare.
2. Walt Disney
Walter ‘Walt’ Disney was born to Elias Disney and Flora Call Disney on December 5, 1901 in Hermosa, Chicago, U.S. and died of lung cancer on December 15, 1966 in Burbank, California, U.S at the age of 65. He moved to Chicago with his father and attended McKinley High School, but having dropped out from school, he took night courses at the Chicago Art Institute. Walt Disney was a famous director, film producer, animator, philanthropist, and a global icon. Along with his brother, Roy O. Disney, he co-founded the best known Walt Disney Productions. Currently known as The Walt Disney Company, it generated about $36 billion in the 2010 financial year. Walt Disney was awarded a record 59 Academy Award nominations, and he also holds the record for the 22 Oscars awarded to him.
3. Woody Allen
Woody Allen was born Allen Stewart Konigsberg in The Bronx, New York, U.S. on December 1, 1935. He changed his name legally to Heywood Allen when he was 17. He is a famous director, actor, playwright having an accumulated experience of over half a century. He was influenced by Charlie Chaplain, Ingmar Bergman, and Stanley Kubrick. He dropped out of the City College of New York on account of what he admitted, ‘I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics final. I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me.’ He won many awards and only a few of them are: two Golden Globes, one for Best Screenplay The Purple Rose of Cairo and the other for Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical Vicky Christina. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America.
4. Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson was born to Edwina and Ernie Anderson in Los Angeles, California, U.S. After only two semesters at Emerson College and after only two days at New York University, he decided not to go to college on account of what was, according to him, ‘a bad situation.’ Instead of wasting time, he collected the money won from gambling with his girlfriend’s credit card and $10,000 which his father had reserved for his college. He decided to use this money to make a 20-minute film instead of going to college. Starting with this he ultimately emerged into a famous film director, script writer, and producer. Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunken Love, and There Will Be Blood are his famous works. Five times Paul Thomas Anderson has been nominated for an Academy Award. He ranked 21st on The Guardian’s List of ‘The 40 Best Directors.’ After Total Film, he was named the 20th greatest director of all time.
5. Peter Bogdanovich
Peter Bogdanovich was born to Herma and Borislav Bogdanovich in Kingston, New York, U.S. on July 30, 1939. He is a well-known director, screenwriter, actor, and author. He became more known after writing articles in Esquire before becoming a director. He had not been to college though he continued his education at the School of Filming in the University of North Carolina School of Arts in 2010. He was given a Master of Cinema Award on April 17, 2010 and was given the Auteur Award by the International Press Academy.
6. Roseanne Barr
Roseanne Cherrie Barr was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S. on November 3, 1952. She is a famous director, actress, comedian, and producer. Though she dropped out of school, Roseanne is an American Idol Winner. Her sitcom show Roseanne started in 1988 was a hit and lasted nine seasons until 1997. She won a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award for her excellent performance in the show.
7. Luc Besson
Luc Besson was born in Paris, France on March 18, 1959. He is a well-known director, screenwriter, and producer. During an interview with The Guardian in 2000, he spoke, ‘So, I said ‘OK’. Let’s get onto the set. So I went on the set’¦The day after I went back to see my mum, and told her that I was going to make films and stop school and, ‘bye.” A few of many awards he won are: Silver Ribbon for Best Director Foreign Film, The Best Director Caeser Award, Best Director and Best Film for Le Dernier Combat in 1983.
8. Jacques Brel
Jaques Romain Georges Brel was born in Schaarbeek, Belgium on April 8, 1929 and died in Bobigny, France on October 9, 1978 at the age of 48. Brel was a famous director, actor, singer and song writer. He could not finish high school and never attended a college. He is considered the master of modern chanson, a lyrical French song which is polyphonic. The music has several voices or instruments and is usually secular. His songs were popular throughout the world, and the English translations of his songs were sung by great artists like Frank Sinatra, Leonard, Cohen, Ray Charles, and Andy Williams. Jacques Brel is the all-time, third best-selling Belgian recording artist.
9. Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore was born Drew Blyth Barrymore in Culver City, California, U.S. on February 22, 1975. She is a famous film director, actress, screenwriter, and producer. She was a high school dropout and never attended college, but her charming personality, family film background and talent raised her to fame after her breakout role in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Drew Barrymore received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and appeared on the cover of the 2007 People magazine’s issue ‘100 Most Beautiful Persons.’ She was nominated an Ambassador against Hunger for the U.N.’s World Food Program. She is also the winner of the Screen Actors Guild Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.
10. Sir Noel Coward
Noel Pierce Coward was born in Teddington, Middlesex near London on December 16, 1899 and died of heart failure on March 26, 1973 at his home in Firefly Estate in Jamaica. The Queen Mother unveiled a memorial stone in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey on March 28, 1984. Right in his early childhood at the age of seven he appeared in amateur concerts and attended the Chapel Royal Choir School. He had only very little formal schooling and dropped out of elementary school and never went to a college. Noel Coward was an Oscar-winning director, producer, composer, and playwright.
Quite a few directors who never went to college emerged as famous persons. A few of them, like Walt Disney, even became world icons. The major cause behind not going to college in most of the cases had been either adverse conditions in early childhood or an irresistible attraction towards the ‘set’ and the ‘reaction’ to the first and ‘devotion’ in the latter case yielded extraordinary success for them.