I've finally decided that I don't know everything... yeah pretty shocking isn't. I know, your world must be falling apart, just take a moment and relax. Moving on.
I've been out of high school what, 7 years now (man oh man). Never went to film school. Photoshop, Premier, Encore, camera work, making movies, (you get the idea) all self taught, painstakingly self taught. Well, now I'm thinking maybe film school wasn't such a bad idea. So I'm at the point were I need to figure out what to do.
I guess what my question is, what are the pros and cons of going to film school? Which ones the over all best, as far as programs, facilities, professors, hot girl to guy ratio that sort of thing.
Please help a fellow Rebel out.
Thu Feb 08, 2007 5:30 pm
Joined: 10 Jan 2007 Posts: 22 Location: Arizona
I went to a design school when my parents suggested that I get my start there so that I could take the core classes at a place that mixed design even into the math class. (We studied the golden ratio, golden spiral...). After that I was supposed to go to VFS.
I am so glad I didn't go.
Now... don't get me wrong...the visual effects students coming out of VFS are amazing. But I havn't been impressed with directing reels from students at VFS.
Film schools in general are notorious for teaching old methods that are slowly fading in relevance. Sure...you might shoot a 16mm film and HAND SPLICE it for some "avante-garde poop stained film festival short", but most of the time you're going to be in the trenches with a Hi Def Digital cam and a non-linear editing suite.
Joined: 31 Jan 2007 Posts: 4424 Location: Hollywood, CA
Personally, my opinion is a big fat negative to any art school, especially film school. This doesn't apply to technical school which requires a certain set of technical knowledge, such as graphic arts or sound technician/engineer, etc.
For all art based art, I feel it more talent that matters and guides you than anything you can learn in a classroom and get a degree for. That's not to say there aren't things for everyone to learn, I just dont think a structured "art/film" school is the answer.
I'm a photographer. Fashion. I started 8 years ago shooting portraits. I first started shooting, developing, and printing my own work 22 years ago. I took photography in every year from 7-12 grades and two years in college. It wasnt until 7 years ago that I took a 1 week workshop and in the first 5 minutes, lighting made sense to me. I had 8 years of formal study (although mostly elementary) in photography and never learned to lighta photo. That's what a freakin photo is! Yes it was a one week workshop, but I swear it was in the first 5 minutes that the "light came on" and this was a revelation that just required talking to the right person. There is no art school that will teach me how to place those lights any better. I believe art is about talent and style, and school cant give you the talent and teach you your style.
Take your $40,000 for films school. Spend $10,000 on HVX and accessories. Spend $10,000 on lighting/grip equip. Spend $150 on director biographies, DV Rebel and a couple other books to learn from other's experiences. Spend the next $100 on a nice Sushi dinner and several large Saporos. Then make your first feature. You will learn much more doing this than the equivelant money in film school.And if you have the talent, you will get noticed in some way. There will be enough recognition to let you know if you should continue.
I have a friend that went to USC Cinema, after graduation was a PA on More American Graffiti then Empire Strikes Back. He went on to Assoc. Produce a couple large film, the Co-Produce, then Post Prod Supervisor on some large films. One of which had a $90,000,000 opening weekend. Worked out for him, but it was a 17 year journey from graduation out of PA work. There was a number of years in there that he was a Personal assistant as opposed to production assistant, but that's alot of years of being nowhere. He never made it into any big money, just better titles. And better money.
I have another friend. We grew up friends with a known actor. You'd know him. At the end of high school, this actor made a couple short films and we helped out. My friend helped out with the camera crew. With no favors from our star friend (grunting on his shorts is not considered a favor) this camera helper friend went on to work his way up to 2nd AC then first AC, working on a very popular, emmy winning, currently running TV series. He is in his early 30s and just bought a 50' yacht. He doesnt come from money. Granted, that monetary success came from wise investing, but this is a guy that had 3 years of JR college and no degree.
These are just two stories that have no bearing at all on your life or choices, just a couple experiences.
I would say, especially today, that you are best to pass on it. If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, do the right thing. Go to school. If you want to make a movie, make a movie.
Just my view and I dont at all think there is one right answer to this question.
Last edited by Gage on Wed Sep 09, 2009 12:30 pm; edited 1 time in total
Thu Feb 08, 2007 11:00 pm
Joined: 16 Jan 2007 Posts: 36 Location: Warwick, UK
The big advantage of film school is that it concentrates your mind wonderfully. It pretty much forces you to live and breathe film for the duration. It can be a really good way to dedicate yourself to filmmaking without real life interfering!
I totally agree that if you go to film school, you need to pick one that gives you a significant amount of hands-on training, and more importantly, practise. Don't go anywhere where you are not guaranteed to direct a film - that is, avoid places where only one or two directors per class actually get to direct. Don't go anywhere that spends more time teaching theory and film criticism than technique and practical information. Avoid Film Studies college degrees in general - you'll be better off with a more generalised art degree - as Mordecai noted, learning the Golden Mean and all that jazz will not hurt you at all.
Nobody really needs film school to make them into a filmmaker. But I wouldn't necessarily rule it out, either.
Fri Feb 09, 2007 2:17 am
Joined: 10 Jan 2007 Posts: 610 Location: Marin County
You don't go to art school to learn art, and you don't go to film school to learn film. I went to art school. It was a great experience and I don't regret it at all. But I didn't learn how to be an artist. What I did learn was how to be disciplined about working in an art-related field. It's fine to wait for a bolt of inspiration if you are independently wealthy, but if you are working as a designer or an art director you need to be able to be inspired on demand. I also learned how to think critically about what I was doing and why I was doing it. Finally, I was immersed in a creative culture where we shared ideas, techniques and energy. It was great.
I think film school is the same. There are plenty of examples of people who have become great film directors who never went near a film school. Stanley Kubrick comes to mind. It really boils down to what you want out of it. If you want to "learn to make movies" than go out and make some. You'll learn plenty. If the idea of being part of a dynamic creative group all focused on making films sounds appealing, do that. I doubt there are many people who walk out of film school straight into feature directing jobs. You still have to earn your spurs. Making films is about having a vision and getting a whole bunch of other people to believe in that vision so that it can become a reality. If you can demonstrate an ability to do that you're golden. I don't know that film school will teach that, though.
Finally, you need to decide what your goal is. A lot of people go to film and art school to put off making decisions about what they want to do with their lives. I'm not suggesting that this is you, all I'm saying is that no school is going to answer important life questions for you. Everyone has to do that for themselves. However, film school might give you industry contacts.
Right now the whole film and video environment is incredibly exciting. There are new technologies - mobile, iPods, laptops, etc. - which are starving for content. My feeling is that at the moment there are opportunities to create content that will be gone in 5 years - all the players will be in place and everything will be locked in stone again. If you can be one of the people doing exciting new work then go for it - don't wait for film school.
I hope this helps.
Fri Feb 09, 2007 6:44 am
Joined: 08 Feb 2007 Posts: 47
My training was just at a community college. The program stressed the technical aspects of video, audio, photography, graphic and web design. Was it worth it? Yeah but not in that way I had originally thought. I was sure I'd come out of the program ready to face anything where they could only scratch the surface of each discipline. The value came from being given a primer by instructors who were quite experienced and it gave me the confidence to go out and learn all the real lessons on my own.
Before I went to school I was clueless, after I was still pretty clueless but I had a little bit of know how and a lot of drive to learn for myself and get better.
PS - I learned more from the Guide than I did in school.
Fri Feb 09, 2007 7:10 am
Joined: 25 Jan 2007 Posts: 31 Location: New Zealand
The journey is never a straight line
I went to film school straight out of High School. way back in 1993 It was a practical one year diploma that gave me a good foundation. I remember the first week we had to do a piece to camera about what we wanted to do - and everyone was rather startled when I proclaimed I wanted to make Kung Fu movies - haha. My only regret is the just out of high school frame of mind meant that I wasn't as receptive to some of the more subtle influences. My final term short was a little splatter fest which got me proclaimed as the next Peter Jackson - this is when Peter Jackson had just completed Braindead (Dead Alive). I also heard about this guy who had made a film called El Mariachi and that got me thinking...
I shifted my energy to learning the craft of screenwriting because I came to realise that without a great screenplay anything I directed would be weak. So I wrote a whole lot of low budget action screenplays about eight in total - they were bad I mean really BAD. They were basically write, read and destroy. My day job was a copywriter writing ads for radio.
Then came some moderate success with the sale of two screenplays. However I then learnt about development hell - the hard way.
Went back to tertiary study in 99 - with a Graduate Diploma in Multimedia. More time spent exploring workflow and applications outside class time. Developed my digital rotoscope process for creating low budget action and coined it VectorTV. Got another award for technical innovation.
Moved to Melbourne in 2000 working for a couple of start ups doing content creation. Got retrenched and moved into the lecturing side of things on digital media.
Also completed my Masters in Creative Writing. A Bullet Waits For You: A study of the key thematic and technical characteristics of the Vengeance Trail plotline in the Spaghetti Western genre. This was a chance for me to formalise my practical writing experience into a qualification - something that was need for the lecturing side of things.
Finished up lecturing last year - too much politics and no time allocated to workload for research. Have now started my own production company producing content for Mobile Phones.
The key in my experience is to be ever open to new information - absorb as much aesthetic as you can, but when it comes to technicial be a ninja, look for loopholes, make the technology do more than it is designed for. Develop synergies between apps and always remember this.
The audience will forgive technical but they won't forgive story. Without story all you have is a bunch of pretty images.
So to bring this back full circle - knowledge is the key - get it by any means neccessary. Get it and apply it.
Fri Feb 09, 2007 11:45 am
Joined: 20 Jan 2007 Posts: 6 Location: BrookTown
All this info. has really put new twists in my brain. Thanks for the input. I would love for a list of schools both technical and art, that would be good for me to look at. I guess maybe more on the technical side. Art has always been inside of me waiting to combust, engulfing me in its flames of lust and love. Thanks again for all the great input
Sun Feb 11, 2007 12:27 pm
Joined: 05 Mar 2007 Posts: 844 Location: Moorpark, CA
Admittedly, film school did not exist for some of these folks but here is a list (Thanks Charles Tashiro!) of filmmakers that did NOT go to film school:
Cecil B. DeMille
Joseph von Sternberg
Erich von Stroheim
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