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 Your opinions on Film School 
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Post Your opinions on Film School
Hey guys!

This is just out of curiosity, what is your opinion on film school? Is it essential?

I am in film school myself...but I strongly felt that I learned more as a P.A. and working on different on film sets than attending school. I was an AC in some film projects here. Furthermore, would a four year degree really help out in your career as a filmmaker?

I did the research NUMEROUS of times. I just definitely want to hear your voice in this forum more than anything. We all have our own perception on this thought; I would assume so.

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Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:21 am
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Post Re: Your opinions on Film School
the arts are one of those fields where the degree itself is basically toilet paper, but the ability to network, opportunities to work on film sets, technical education, and other stuff you pick up along the way are the important things to get out of it. depending on who they are and where they live, some people have access to some or all of that stuff anyway. film school is for the ones who don't

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Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:55 pm
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Post Re: Your opinions on Film School
Not to sound cynical, but film school was a good time to work on my own projects since I wasn't forced to make ends meet in the workforce. Depends on where you go to school. San Francisco state emphasizes the theory and critical aspects, they may try to convince you not to make genre films which is annoying. There's no real emphasis on fundraising or getting your own crew together. And I can guarantee youll be far more advanced than most people in the class.

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Sat Jun 02, 2012 7:03 pm
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Post Re: Your opinions on Film School
well, the one thing film school will teach you more than anywhere else is the ability to defend or sell a concept using pen and paper. you'll have an easier time learning all the actual filmmaking stuff and running a crew from working sets, but film schools and all the stupid meaningless papers will give you plenty of vocabulary to defend the things you've shot and the choices you're making before, during, and after a shoot. A lot of filmmaking actually comes from using your words - to convince people to give oyu money, to excite others who may work for free, to dodge an argument with some smartass on set who thinks your idea is stupid, and to justify things in editing. Film school is an environment where everyone is constantly talking shit and talking about what they want to make, what they'd just made, and what they'd been watching. You may not be able to make anything cool, and most of your classmates definitely will not have done anything good, just know that you'll meet all these people once you graduate, so either get learned there or get learned elsewhere, because man, when some dude's trying to tell everyone that POV shots "take you out of the fourth wall" and it's 3am on the last day of shooting and you haven't even began the fight choreography, you better have something smart to shut him up and to get everyone else onboard.


Sat Jun 02, 2012 8:28 pm
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Post Re: Your opinions on Film School
It really depends so heavily on the school. Some schools are just an excuse to not do much other than watch classic films. Some top schools have teachers with connections and networking opportunities. I went to a school that wasn't good for film, but gave me plenty of time to learn on my own.

However, most video-oriented jobs I've applied for accept equivalent experience - it's really been about the reel. So if I did it again, I mighta majored in marketing, just because those jobs interest me but they tend to want a specific degree.


Thu Jun 07, 2012 2:11 am
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Post Re: Your opinions on Film School
I'm not sure how relevant my experience is as it's been a few years - I went through film school during the transition from film to digital. At the time it just wasn't very practical to own your own high-quality film or video camera - or editing system - so part of the draw of school was to get access to filmmaking equipment.

That said, I went in with nearly four years of video, studio photography & darkroom experience and a year of digital photography work. I had a computer in my dorm room that was as or more powerful for graphics than anything the school had available to students. So from a technical standpoint I can't say I learned much in school from the actual classes - but like Eric said it was a great opportunity to work on projects without worrying too much about real life. It was also a great life/learning experience outside of the actual studies.

I actually stayed an extra year after finishing my film studies and finished a second degree in modern literature - partly because it turned out to be a much stronger field of study for the theoretical side of film than the actual film program was. Again, as Eric said, the film program treated filmmaking purely as an art and didn't have much interest in genre work. Modern lit was almost the opposite - I took entire classes based on sci-fi, detective fiction, horror films, even one that focused purely on the films of John Carpenter!

From a career standpoint the degree has never mattered much. Most people I've worked with don't know if I have a degree at all - if you're reliable and good at what you do, and reasonably easy to get along with, credentials just don't matter much.

Cost is also a big consideration. I came out of 5 years of undergrad with just $10k in student loans. I did my first year and a half at a community college while working full time, then worked for the school to cover my housing, and came in with a small college savings fund from my parents and the work I'd done while at the community college - and of course my tuition wasn't too bad (I was at a UC). I just paid off the loan a few years ago - but that's because the payments were never more than $50/month. I went back to school and got a masters in a related field a few years later and just paid out of pocket - because it was a state school and the tuition was incredibly low, lower even than undergrad. Overall a total of seven years in school didn't leave me with a long term financial burden.

I don't think that's possible anymore as education costs have skyrocketed over the past decade. If I were considering school now and facing the prospect of coming out with $50-100k or more in debt I just wouldn't do it. You could spend a fraction of that on the equipment you need to learn filmmaking, find all the resources you need online, and spend the time working in the industry to get real world experience while also making a little money instead of losing it. The main drawback of that is you give up a lot of the time and resources to focus purely on your own work - but if you work at it you can probably create that for yourself somewhat.

So, yeah - film school was great, but I'm not sure I could recommend it to anyone anymore unless you've got something like a full scholarship.

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Sun Jun 10, 2012 6:16 pm
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Post Re: Your opinions on Film School
Times have changed and film professors know they have to modernize their material. Youtube, online viewership, the access to HD or professional looking cameras, it all changed the game.

If you're thinking that theory is boring and not always useful, I'd have to agree to some extent. But no one goes to film school for the theory. I think it's very important to take film school so no one can use that [Hey he didn't go to Film School] card against you. It looks great on a resume.

I mean demo reels speak for themselves, you dont need to go to film school to have an awesome demo reel. Film school is great for other reasons. You get to collaborate with people and learn/grow WITH them. You can also learn from them if they are particularly great in a certain area.

You learn scripting, camera technique, lighting, editing, and how to work with a team. There are other smaller things a film professor can help you with these days like: where to look for hiring actors, the basics of getting a budget, learning special effects, how to get locations, and access to different cameras and lenses so you're at least familiar with more than one cameras out there. Tbh, I find it hard to specialize in all of those, but I'm glad I got exposure to it. Of course you can do these all on your own (as a few famous directors actually had no film school before directing their first movie) but in general it's good to have some kind of certificate to show when applying for jobs.

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Fri Jun 29, 2012 2:34 pm
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Post Re: Your opinions on Film School
Ironically, a lot of the innovations and shifts in presentation that you just mentioned are what has made film school more or less obsolete. The proliferation of internet resources and increasingly affordable technology has enabled anyone with a few dollars and a modicum of creativity to become a filmmaker, in the way that the work of Hunter S. Thompson showed that all it took to be a journalist was an experience and a pen to write about it with.

Film schools seem to be a lingering part of that "old guard" that steadfastly upholds the idea that in order to be considerate legitimate in some field you have to be certified or have belonged to some population of the vocational elite--which just isn't so. As many filmmakers on this very forum have proved, and will hopefully continue to prove in the future, extensive professional training isn't necessary to breed good filmmakers; all that takes is a good eye, a passion for cinema and the motivation and resourcefulness to make films with what you have available.

Professional connections are of course a valid consideration, but those can come about from a variety of sources. No one should have to go to school just to set up some elbow-rubbing network of common minds and venture capitalists.

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Fri Jun 29, 2012 9:14 pm
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Post Re: Your opinions on Film School
Film schools are also self-interested in preservation. Some of the teachers I had would be hard-up for work otherwise. I know because they showed their films to us. :|

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Sat Jun 30, 2012 2:19 pm
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Post Re: Your opinions on Film School
As for the film teachers aspect, the film teachers I know do have other jobs related to media outside the teaching job. I understand that they make a good living and support their families. But in terms of what they've made...... "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." None of their films were horrible, but none of them were superb. Some teachers I've had even made me wonder if they have given up on making films outside of the school. There are some film teachers that go on to make their own films that get noticed, but its rare.

I think there's a good and bad side to anything. At film school I loved the nurturing environment and meeting some really great people. The one thing I didnt like was the pretentious attitude especially towards action. "Film a badass fight scene?! No way! Why do that when we can film old people in the park playing chess?"


Sat Jun 30, 2012 4:02 pm
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Post Re: Your opinions on Film School
Yeah it's pretty anti-establishment or anti-tradition, action films are seen as the epitome of that, unless they're satirical, or V for Vendetta.

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Sat Jun 30, 2012 4:20 pm
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Post Re: Your opinions on Film School
I never understood that. I remember in class, the teachers would open with a discussion about whatever Hollywood blockbuster just came out. Why it was good or what made it bad. These films had a ton of action and they'd think it was just a great script or great directing that made it good. Action can pump the storyline and regather the attention of the elusive audience.

I wish I could have asked more people what it was against action. The way I see it is even if there isn't a single fight in a movie- most successful movies (whatever genre) have a lot of Action to drive the plot. Even when the class would actually talk about fight scenes, I'd ask them "Hey let's try that out and film a fight scene then?" They would say "Nah nah, we're missing our chance to film those old people playing chess. Besides action is easy you just need to film it like in Jason Bourne." -_-


Sat Jun 30, 2012 4:49 pm
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Post Re: Your opinions on Film School
As a super broad-based response, I think that's because action films have black and white morality tales, since you really need that if you're gonna kill someone. Colleges don't dig that, because black and white morality is so Reagan-era. Etc.

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Sun Jul 01, 2012 5:04 pm
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Post Re: Your opinions on Film School
I think it's a little too simplistic to say it's got to do with the morality of action films - there's certain a lot of action films where things aren't that black and white. But film schools are still heavily invested in auteur theory, so they tend to focus on the depth of the director's meaning or message as the primary factor in determining the worth of a film. From that standpoint there's really not much to analyze in most action films, so they just don't have a place in that world.

I tend to see good action as more of a technical art, similar to cinematography or editing. From that standpoint though it's actually more in line with something like animation, which also doesn't fit well within a traditional film school - it's a specialized subset of filmmaking, so it tends to only be appreciated by those who are interested in that specialty.

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Sun Jul 15, 2012 3:58 am
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