I wouldn’t start this conversation with all successful film-makers for a few reasons. Not only is that a less relevant subject (considering what this thread is about) because of differences in the current state of industry and film-making, it doesn’t relate to the original guy who wanted to know if film school is right for him. It would also bring into attention the huge number of film-makers in the past who never went to film-school either because they were unable or they lived in different social climates without film school (I’m leaning toward classic film-makers).
And as for David Gordon Green, there are certain things I like about him as a film-maker, but if you’re just going to talk about successful people who went to film school, you can include the likes of Michael Bay and Brett Ratner. That’s not to say that success should be taken lightly in any industry, but it goes to show you how you can’t just equate film school and success with good films. (Gordon Green’s Pineapple Express was successful, yet even as a college student who enjoys a good time, that movie was not good especially considering what the film could have been. The marketing really saved that film in terms of its financial success.)
David Lee, I think you’re fighting with yourself and imaging arguments that don’t exist… alternately, you might just happen to be a very combative writer, when you’re actually making an effort to have a debate. Still, many of your arguments seem to start with accusing someone of saying something that they didn’t say, then telling them how wrong they are for saying whatever it was that they didn’t say.
For example, I never suggested in any way, shape, or form that you had any opinion whatsoever on the effort a filmmaker must put into their work. To be clear, you seem to be well aware of the importance of effort and seem quite driven. Best of luck in your endeavors.
Also, Aronofsky did complete a full year at AFI, then he was not invited back to the program for the second year. That’s what happened with him. He probably learned a thing or two, but whether or not he learned anything in his time there, he was able to make some very interesting movies, which, incidentally, happen to be quite traditional in many respects.
It’s so hard to succeed at filmmaking that it’s incredible that anyone who isn’t born a Coppola can manage to break into the industry, film school or no. Get in any way you can.
Paperzach: You’re saying that I’m not mentioning things being discussed, yet I’m addressing and directly quoting many of the opinions which you have written? If there was a quote button, I’d be all over that with direct assessments to posts because I’m tired of writing “which you mentioned in your post” or having to quote people all the time. If you state an opinion or idea, someone can agree or refute that opinion, so these aren’t arguments that are being “imagined”.
The fact that I’ve seen a lot of these other posts edited as I’m writing (after hitting refresh), kind of shows me how people go about this discussion.
Do you know why Aronofsky couldn’t return to AFI? He took a personal stance within the school and curriculum and as a result, was not invited back for the following year. Because Aronofsky went to film school for one year, his work is a product of film-school? Not only has Aronofsky criticized many of the methods and the curriculum of AFI, if you were to tell him that his work is a substantial result from his time at film school, he would frankly be appalled (as he has in many interviews concerning the topic in the past). I’m not saying that film-school didn’t have some influence on him because it did, but I think to put any substantial weight on his overall body of film-making from his one year at film school is a little too much.
It may be inferred that I am trying to argue against film-school on a general basis, but I’m really just trying to over-emphasis the potential problems and pitfalls (especially financially) because many people don’t have that perspective going in or when they’re making their decisions. That being said, I have a location to get to in an hour so I’ll let this conversation form itself out (though I’m sure this lengthy back-and-forth has already put off most people from this thread haha)
Dude, you’re nuts. Good luck out there.
The best school for film maybe sound ridiculous but the best thing that young filmmakers should do is to get hold of a camera (digital or film) and make movie of any kind at all…
Rozinor nailed it, Kubrick and many others have used this similar quote in many instances when asked about film-school.
Paperzach: If you have further problems discussing any opinion, refer to my first post, you’ll notice a similar statement within the first paragraph
I went to SAIT Polytechnic (in Calgary) for the money you put in it certainly gives you a great foundation that you can then go into the real world and learn how everything really works. Although i suggest you specialize in Craft/Tech as the program and school are geared towards technical studies. I honestly think spending more than 2 years in a progam is a waste of time and money as 2 years is more than enough to get you a basic understanding that you can take to set and spend the time you would otherwise be in school going over the basics or studying things you honestly will learn on the job actually working and gaining ground in a very hard industry.
Thats my Two cents!
I teach at a very good film school in Pennsylvania. Contact me privately if you’re interested and I’ll get you some information.
@Christopher Sepesy: Thank you very much for the kind offer I will defiantly contact you. I’m trying to stay in Canada and the furthest I am willing to go is University of Illionois or Tisch (that would be a dream if I could get in but it will be a uphill battle) but Pennsylvania isn’t that much further away so I don’t mind. I heard that the University of Winnipeg is best of film school in my area, due to the class sizes and how you get hired by Professors to work on productions. Apparently is all about networking and thats what the college supports and encourages. There is also the University of Manitoba which has Canadian directors such as Guy Maddin (My Winnipeg (2007) ) lecture.
Paul Thomas Anderson dropped out of film school after he submitted a David Mamet script to his script teacher and received a D, but not for plagiarism.
This discussion will always rage on and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been engaged in it. There really is no right or wrong answer, it depends on the individual. If you like school and learn well in that environment then go ahead and do it. For me personally I couldn’t wait to get out of high school and there was no way you could ever drag me into a classroom again. These seem to be the two types of personalities: To take it further I can only speak of my experience. I wrote, produced and directed a feature film last year for $10,000 U.S. dollars. Here’s how I arrived at this point. I had a few pennies stashed away and moved to Southern California. First I volunteered on the set of a feature doing all sorts of odd jobs. I was soon hired and actually earned pay. It’s not financially lucrative and one can expect $75-$150 a day max. From here you will meet theory put into practice. The Director of Photography on set might be the best all around resource and their brain must be picked. You can learn every technical detail about shooting a film from a good D.P. The second most important person to learn from is the Assistant Director. This is the person who does all of the dirty work: They schedule the film, keep it on time, organize the set ups, actors call times, locations etc…really the brains behind the whole operation. I wouldnt’ even watch the director all that much and I suggest not wasting time learning how to be a grip, electrician or camera loader, these are all positions that can easily be hired out and focusing on them will only delay the bottom line of making your own film. After working on six features I was more than ready to set out on my own yet I still had not shot anything. So I started small with short films and after completing four of them it was time to dip my camera into a full on feature. From what I learned, observed and practiced in that time I was able to do virtually everything myself because I was essentially my own producer, my own assistant director and it was very easy to hire the rest of the crew. That’s the whole technical behind the scenes stuff that maybe a film professor can teach, but to see it actually work in front of your eyes is invaluable. This does not solve everything because now it boils down to can you make a film or not, can you tell a story, what do you want to say? Watch a lot of film, practice writing or find someone who can write better than you. Work with actors and figure out your style. Directing is all about management, organization and convincing people to trust and believe in you. When you first work with an actor they might be hesitant to really break out at first, but after a while if they get to know you they will open up and once trust is established look out because you will get their best stuff and your crew, family, friends will all act the same way once they actually see you on a film set working, not studying, but working. The problem I’ve always had with this whole situation is one of the first questions I get asked is “What film school did you go to?” When I say I didn’t go I usually get an unapproving glance. In a weird way I think regular people will take you more seriously if you go to film school, but again there isn’t any better way to convince yourself and others than to show them proof. Make them sit in front of your completed movie and then they will know, until then it’s all talk. No matter if you go to school or do it the way I did, it is a long process. I’m not down on film school, I just want others to know another option. I require practical application immediately and a text book cannot offer that to me. Practice, practice, practice the craft. Shoot, edit, write, storyboard, rehearse and you will get better. Ask yourself what is the bottom line? The answer is to make a film my way. It doesn’t matter how you get there, just get there and don’t let anyone stop you.
It sounds as if Film School only gets you so far and experience is more valuable. The reason I want to goto the above mentioned schools. is that I will get a job on a set through the professor of a course. They offer internships and postgrad positions.
Forgive me if someone has asked this before, but some of these posts are a bit long-winded and I browsed through some, but David K., the most important question that you should be asking is what type of film interests you the most?
If you are interested most in the traditional three-act narrative, or want to get into a mainstream narrative-driven film market, there’s no better place for you than film school from day one through grad school. Get in somewhere like UCLA, USC or AFI for grad school and you’ll come out ready to work on commercial shoots and music videos from day one. Then maybe you’ll get noticed if you work well and eventually make it onto a feature film.
I think what some of the people here are saying when they say forgo film school, is that they do not necessarily see the benefit in becoming another drone for the film industry since some of their favorite films may be attacks on the narrative structure that Hollywood was based on (neo-realism, French new wave, early American independents). I’m not making judgments here, simply stating facts. If you want to do narrative filmmaking in the vein of Hitchcock or Wes Anderson then this is certainly the route for you. You will most likely not be able to make it into the industry any other way (unless you have a script that everyone is slobbering over). You need to learn the ropes of the beast and these schools are really the only way for an outsider.
Having said that, and seeing that you are looking into Tisch and Toronto, perhaps the next logical question is going to be: will you settle for working a 9-5 day-job and every now and again making some indie films that may or may not get picked up for nationwide distribution? If the answer is yes, then by all means look into these schools.
The final option for schools is for the artists who don’t care that their films will or will not get distribution. They are happy to play the festival circuit and build a minor following that way. If this is the route for you, find a dayjob that you will be happy at, buy some equipment for yourself (a Bolex, some lights, a sound recorder and mic, a tripod), go get yourself a liberal arts education at a school that has some kind of film department (there are a lot of good SUNY schools that do) so that you can survive in the real world and go to film graduate school at an arts intitution (CalArts, SFAI, MassArt, etc.) so that you can make contacts with fellow-minded colleagues and professors who will be your artistic base for the rest of your life.
Full disclosure, I chose the latter route (Sarah Lawrence College, Post-Baccalaureate program at School of Museum of Fine Arts Boston, graduate program at CalArts) because I make experimental films. There is no place for me in the industry where I wouldn’t feel like shooting myself after a year or two.
Find where your passion lies and head in that direction. As long as you are happy with what you are doing and following your true dreams then there is no wrong in where you are at.
>Having said that, and seeing that you are looking into Tisch and Toronto, perhaps the next logical question is going to be: will you settle for working a 9-5 day-job and every now and again making some indie films that may or may not get picked up for nationwide distribution? If the answer is yes, then by all means look into these schools.
I have my degree in networking to fall back on and its something I enjoy (CCNA/CCNP soon MCHE and RHCE) I have allways been interested in experimental and narrative film making. So I don’t mind working and then making movies.
Considering that I can work on a contractible basis, it becomes easier for me to do what I want. Of course the trick is to find a girlfriend/wife that is accepting of this, because once you have kids its necessary.
I am currently working on my portfolio and writing some creative works, dramatic essay on a situation in my life and I know a cinematographer with good cameras etc (works for a wedding, event etc company) who I can borrow equipment from to make a 5min short.
Going to UCLA and Tisch won’t make you Coppola or Scorsese, either — but it can help. Like someone mentioned earlier, it all depends on the person. Film school might ignite things a person hadn’t or might not have found in themselves. I think that’s why film school helps.
Although, going out there and making it like PTA would be the dream, but it’s not so easy.
It all comes down to if the person wants to make films or needs to make films. Someone who wants to make films may try at it either w/ or w/out film school, fail, and say “Fuck it, lemme try accounting.” For others, they have no real choice. Whether their projects fall apart, they go on and do what they need to do to make it out there, and I think that’s what makes a good filmmaker.
Scarlett Johansson was turned down from Tisch- a nice factoid. I went to Tisch NYU in the early nineties and did Cinema Studies rather than filmmaking The contrast couldn’t be more stark: Film Studies students seemed to actually have a lot more sense of film history and genre and were far more serious about film as an art-form, which, in terms of study, can’t stand up on its own, as it’s always propped up by the humanities. The filmmaking students thought that cinema started with “Star Wars” and bitched at the Cinema Studies students for being up their own backsides. Even though filmmakers had to take a breadth of Cinema Studies courses, they wouldn’t have much interesting to say during seminars.
I loved my time at NYU, but I was realistic enough not to think I’d be some hot shot film critic. I did become one for six years, but had to augment my income with a full time, mundane job. I still love film, and that’s the most important thing.
I double-majored in Sociology, which still didn’t make me much more marketable. If anyone is thinking of going into the industry, the best way is still at the bottom, by becoming a runner for a small film company and learning the ropes. Same for film journalism: It’s best to get a degree in a traditional subject such as Economics or English. Take a film course, here and there, to see how it goes, and channel your passions there and outside, enjoying film as a hobby and passion.
Film is always seen as sexy and glam and the kind of job that doesn’t have the same dullness as most, but that’s exactly why it’s always so difficult to break into the industry. Whilst NYU has churned out some of the best actors, directors and writers in modern cinema, there’s so many more that never made it. Anyone going to film school has to have a reality check. It’s four years away from the real world, but NYU, as a brand, isn’t a free pass into the film world. It’s an impressive name to bandy about, but the novelty soon wears off. Especially when you realize that you’re not owed a living and there’s plenty of people chasing the same dream as you. Luck plays much a part of life as talent, self belief and having confidence in getting the job you desire and the life you’d like to lead.
@Angggelo: “It all comes down to if the person wants to make films or needs to make films. Someone who wants to make films may try at it either w/ or w/out film school, fail, and say “Fuck it, lemme try accounting.” For others, they have no real choice. Whether their projects fall apart, they go on and do what they need to do to make it out there, and I think that’s what makes a good filmmaker.”
That is not quite true.Look at Darren Aronofsky for example. He came from an upper middle class family and made films. If something is your passion, you are not going to give up because you fail. I have never given up on something because its daunting. Chances are that if something is your passion you will have a good shot.
To David: I think you misunderstood me. I was trying to say that people who have a true passion for filmmaking (or, as I said, people who need to make films) will keep making films despite any feeling or actuality of failure. When I said “no other choice” I ddin’t mean that no other possible career oppotunity was open for them or anything like that. I meant that film, in ways, is what they have to do or what they feel they were put on this earth to do. I suppose what I said was a statement about filmmakers more than film school.
Most people don’t have a need for account. Its just based on how important it is for them. If it was a half assed hobby for them, then sure they will give up. But if this is their last shot to prove to themselves and everyone they love that they can do it and if they fail thats it, you will have more effort. Same goes if something is your passion or love, then it becomes a labor of love and you wont be cutting any corners.
Exactly. I tried to tie that into discussing how either going to film school or not depends on the individual.
I’m working on going to film school as well. What’s the main reason you want to go to film school?
I want to goto film school because I have a passion for film and writing in particular (don’t laugh) I will soon (test tomorrow) have my CCNA, so then I have decided that since I’m 18 and young and all that, I want to pursue my passion. I mean whats the point of doing that when your 25+? I want to do this so I can do something I love and have a career to fall back on if it goes wrong and keep on going with film making (I can work on a contractual basis with the job I am in)
Get some gear; make movies.
Yup thats the idea. I like the local one because the professors get you onto sets and get you post grad jobs. Hell thats a students dream come true! (I think its for honor students so competition will be fierce!)
Those who have a back up plan to fall back on always intended to in the first place.
>Those who have a back up plan to fall back on always intended to in the first place.
Well Id rather have a backup plan, then to end up like a destitute artist like a certain family member of mine.
John M – I think you misunderstand what I tryed to tell him. I said pick up a few books then talk his way onto a few sets. Thats your learning experiance. Also what I am tryed to point out is that what you spend for film school could pay for a feature film. Extremely low budget it would be, but you would have a film. You can do shorts for next to nothing or free with the right set up. By the time your ready to shell out the big bucks you will have a product and not just a piece of papper and a demo reel.
@D. : Thanks for that. Thats great advice, which is why I in part wanted to goto the film school locally, because the professors get you jobs on film sets doing real work. I’m quite excited!