Does anyone go to film school or study film history? Have these studies led to a career? How did you become familiar with things such as the language of film or film terminology, theory, or techniques for film analysis?
Edit – I am mostly interested in the history of film as well as analysis and possibly criticism, over production. Responses regarding both are still welcome in case others are more interested in the latter.
Yes, I study film history and many others items related to cinema, and now…. I work in the television!
Anyway I continue to write about cinema as a hobby or a second work (as you prefer…). Regarding the ways I became familiar with film analysis, I think the most important thing is to watch many and many films. Not before you have known the main theorical concepts about film theory.
Watching many films is definitely the way to go. The vast amount of cinema available in the world allows us to expand both the love and appreciation for each individual film. Films from different countries allow us to understand humnaity in ways that books cannot. Although a good book can top a movies story, watching moving images of the world can elevate our perspective of others and enlighten us to how we can grow as people. Films like triumph of the will right up to hoop dreams can shine a light on how the world is changing before our very eyes. On top of the fact that we as both filmmakers and film buffs can always learn so much from our peers just by sitting back and enjoying a good film. As we grow older our love for film allows us also to evolve as artists.
I went to film school. You learn things. Cameras, lenses, focus, lighting, different formats, editing. Theory is useful in so far as it helps direct your thinking about film. I got into Marxist criticisms and linguistics, which helped me understand/frame an approach. Screenwriting has two trajectories: formula or no formula. You can follow 3 act structures and meme displacement til you drop, but it won’t help you write in an original style, for which you need the second trajectory, which is also known as instinct_.
But most importantly, what you don’t learn at f/school is directing, i.e. how to work with actors. For that I had to go into theatre— studied Boal, Stanislavski, Strasberg …and finally left all that behind and went …_elsewhere.
As far as I understand it now, the real trick to a ‘career’ in film (or any other artform, as it happens) is to have the capacity to sacrifice everything you think you know while still remaining true to your original drive. You don’t need school for that. You need willpower. Everything you learn at f/s you can get from your local library. Save yourself the money, and buy yourself a RED camera.
But this is my path. Everyone is different.
Thanks for the replies so far everyone.
Andrea – Good to hear your studies helped you to find a career in Television. I agree with you and Broncstud that watching many films is the way to go. This is something I plan on doing.
T – It sounds like you have had many interesting experiences, best of luck with your project. I agree with you that school is not always what it comes down to. However, I am personally more interested in film history, analysis, and things like that, so I am considering going to school to learn more about these subjects.
By the way, ‘career’ could certainly be replaced with doing what you want to do with film, whether it be directing a feature or becoming a critic.
I went to ‘film school,’ studying film history and aesthetics and making films.
I worked in tv as a producer of documentary content (where producer = creative storyteller, akin to a director in film).
I watch a lot of films. Anywhere from 2 to 5 a week right now, though at one point I watched 15+ every week.
I’m now without a day-job, so working on my own projects by default, though I think a day job might be a better way for me to do great things, in moving pictures or otherwise. And trying to figure out the best ways to make that happen.
I consider my current experiences a kind of film school; one needs to learn how to say things, but it’s infinitely more important to have things to say.
I graduated from film school, but in later years I’ve realized it was not necessary to a career at any level of film or TV production.
I think watching a lot of movies and reading a lot of books on different aspects of filmmaking, plus making movies while learning through trial and error are perhaps more effective than any film school curriculum (it will still cost you money, but certainly not $35 grand a year).
But it largely depends on what you want to do in terms of a career in production. The technical skills required to get audio and picture done right are perhaps best learned in a school lab/workshop setting unless you come by an apprenticeship in the industry in one of those areas. Not so if you want to be a director. I think some schools probably teach directing better than others. At NYU, for example, taking an acting class was required for all students in the Film/TV program. Understanding the acting craft is invaluable if you want to direct, even if you want to be the next Michael Bay (ok, maybe not).
But the first film schools did not exist until the 60’s and plenty of people were making great movies way before that, as directors, writers, producers, DPs, gaffers, etc.
But to answer your specific questions, the best way to learn the language of film is watching movies. The best way to understand film analysis is to read essays by film critics. When I say critics I don’t mean film reviewers, but people who study film as art. Terminology and theory will follow from there. Understanding photography, lenses and how light behaves is also very valuable, even in these days of digital photography.
My introduction to all those concepts came via American Film magazine, a publication of the AFI that used to be available back in the 80’s and early 90’s. They don’t make it anymore, but if it wasn’t for it I don’t think I would have thought of movies as more than mere entertainment.
“one needs to learn how to say things, but it’s infinitely more important to have things to say”… yeah Dave, you said it. Same goes with books, painting, dance, flower arranging. All artforms. All creativity.
I teach film theory here in the UK and one of the first things I would look for in a potential student is an interest in history in general. Anyone who doesn’t like studying history will struggle with your average film theory course, since such a lot of it is about placing films in their social ad historical contexts. In theory you can teach yourself all this stuff. There are so many good film theory books out there now. One of the best is still Bordwell and Thompson’s ‘Film Art’ – if you want to learn about film language and how it works then buy this and read it from cover to cover. Personally, my favourite film book is still Friedman’s ‘Fires Were Started: British Cinema and Thatcherism’ – a really great anthology of essays about British cinema in the 1980s.
So to reiterate what’s already been said… READ, READ, READ and WATCH, WATCH, WATCH… all genres, all decades, all countries… go for things you’re not sure you’ll like – I guarantee you’ll get some surprises. If you’re lucky enough to have an independent arts cinema near you that shows non-mainstream and old films then make it your second home. I practically lived at mine for an entire week when a travelling showcase of Kurosawa films came to town. NOTHING compares to watching them on a big screen and don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.
I’m not a filmmaker so I can’t comment on how useful such a course would be to your future career, but if you want to be a film theorist then you pretty much have to go to university (at least in the UK). What a course will give you, apart from a qualification, is the opportunity for discussion – with your peers, your tutors, the academic film community – and discussion is invaluable. It’s what film theory is all about. If you genuinely love film then it’ll be heaven – it was for me and I couldn’t get enough of it. Invariably my most successful students are those who watch voraciously and, more importantly, widely. They come into nearly every lesson excitedly chattering about something they’ve seen. What studying film did for me was to open my eyes to directors and films I’d never heard of and gave me the confidence to search out more and the tools to talk about them.
I would like to know if anyone knows a good intensive course of direction of Photography with some good renowned Institute or a good course with a good director of photography… I have been looking for a course based on photography for film but have found very little.
I did a course in Filmmaking well at least that how they sold it at the SAE in Melbourne Australia, in reality the course was all about digital media and (in video)
At the moment I am doing a course in direction of photography with a very good director of South America.
Thanks… (The place doesn’t matter but preferably New York. But anywere in the world could do.)
Thanks for the replies. I definitely plan to get a hold of ‘Film Art’ as soon as I can. I’ve never been to an art-cinema but I am interested in locating one. I’m sure the experience is very nice. I have decided to go to school for Film Studies, if for nothing more than personal interest. I agree with you, Nicky, that if you take courses on a topic you have a passion for, it begins to not feel like work, but rather a part of your life.
Just to put my few cents in to this discussion: As an undergraduate, I studied Film Production and Screenwriting. Overall, It was a really intriguing, challenging and extremely enjoyable experience. Since I was a kid, I was always fascinated, and almost obsessed with Cinema, however before I started film school (when I was 18), I had no idea about how to shoot or direct a film or work in the Film set. So once I started the school, I was ‘fish-out-of -the-water, and somewhat was intimidated by all the technical things, from camera parts to lighting schemes, that I had to learn. However, while at school, I worked on various short films with other film student, and what was unique about this experience was, a lot of the other students, just like me, didn’t had much experience in shooting films, so everyone was kind of learning together. This helped me a lot in order to feel less intimated and also showed that it was alright to make mistakes, since everyone around me where making them as well, as oppose to if I was trying learn the craft film-making while working on a film set where everyone was a lot more experienced than me.
After I did my B.A. in Film and Production and Screenwriting, I went on to study Film Studies in FAMU, Prague. It was probably one of the most unique experiences of my entire life. The school was really great, very different than any other school I have ever been to. My program was very international with a diverse group of students from all over the all the world, as well as many Czech students as well. Since the school has a legendary reputation for its alumni and faculty( Milan Kundera used to teach there, while both Emir Kusturica and Milos Forman are former graduates of this school), the program and the faculty were-first rate. In addition to being one of the ‘cheaper’ Film Schools of the World, especially in Europe, if you are not from an EU country.
Though, if I can re-wind my life and do everything all over again. I would MOST DEFINITLY go to study Film Studies or Literature first, in order to understand different story-telling techniques and read/watch as many different type of stories. And later on, I would go to Film Production School for my Masters. Because, by then, I think I would be more mature(age-wise), so I would have more stories to tell, in addition, I would also know a lot more about storytelling due to my previous education in Literature or Film.
Did all or any of these led to a career for me? Totally! Over the years, I worked in many different companies related to Film, from Film Magazines to Film Production Companies. And some of these jobs I got due to the help and recommendations of my Film professors and/or my classmates. And, currently, I am working for a ‘Website’ – that you are very familiar with- and every single one of these were great experiences for me that I enjoyed immensely and continue to do so… Hope this helped to your inquiry…
I’m reading the filmmaker handbook. It seems to be a very good starting point. Maybe next year I’ll move to Montréal to get into a film school but my heart is at Québec.
Thanks, Halim. Your response was very helpful. That sounds like quite a journey.
I graduated from NYU Cinema Studies in 1978 and never regret a moment of my experience there. Every serious student of film should read Eisenstein and Bazin.
I studied Fine Art but majored in 16mm film-making. I have since worked on gallery and festival based film and multimedia projects before becoming a Film Studies lecturer. I have written a text book about Surrealist and Fantasy Cinema and have just published a novel about a Film Studies lecturer who stumbles across a dead body that he believes to be Jean-Luc Godard. The book is more about my journey through cinema the affect that cinema has on our lives and perception of reality – if anyone’s interested, have a look at my website ( www.darkwindows.co.uk ) From my experience there’s very little money to be made out of writing about film – it’s all done for cinephilism (if that’s a word)
Hi, I graduated from NYU Cinema Studies in 1996 (double-majored with Sociology) and took a post-grad course in film at University of Westminster. I was from 98-2004 the film critic of the Morning Star, left wing paper, based in London, paid very little, but the experience was amazing, even if many of the films I had to review were lamentably crap. I work for the Underground, the Tube in London and collect royalties for the music industry. But film will always where my passions lie.. and I never stop discovering new and old films. I’m working on the whole Criterion Collection, as this seems to be the film label that treats film buffs with the respect they deserve and the films they take care of are reinvented for a whole new age. I agree, there’s very little money to be made writing about films, but a person’s enthusiasm can prove infectious, and I love telling people about a film they’ve never heard of, hearing that they’ve seen it, and what experience, good or bad, they got from it.
I’m in my last semester as a Film Studies student at the University of Missouri-Columbia. All the classes I’ve taken in my major – Intro to Film Analysis, Architecture in Film, The Films of Alfred Hitchcock, The Films of Woody Allen, Critical Reviewing, East European Cinema, Trends in World Cinema, Black Film, Psychology at the Movies, Adaptation of Literature to Film, Food & Film, Brazilian Cinema – have helped me learn massive amounts about film terminology and how films are made, which has only assisted me in writing my first full-length screenplay for my Screenwriting capstone. In most of these classes, we simply watched films and discussed them using film terms and referencing readings the professors found useful.
My college doesn’t officially have a Film Studies major yet (I’m majoring in it through a special degree program), but the fact that I was still able to learn so much about film has really been great.
As far as having a career after all of this, I really don’t know, but I know that I will not be truly happy unless I’m doing something involved with film.