Monday, February 17, 2014

Film schools - do you really need to go to one?

First of all, some of you already know what happened to my film school experience. For the newbies, I attended a 3-month summer class in film in the fantastic Rocky Mountains in Alberta Canada. 

And I failed. So did my buddy Phil Borsos. My then-wife passed her photography course though so it wasn't a total loss.

But I have to be honest; before this class I was working for nearly two years at a television station where I already had learned more than the class offered. In fact I ended up being asked to shoot for four of my classmates.

So why did I fail?

I don't know, maybe I made a bad film, or maybe the instructor didn't like me. Regardless my friend Phil and I were the only students in that class that actually had film careers. Phil passed away at a very young age but I'm still around.

A few years ago I wet a film graduate from NYC who had just graduated and was ready for a studio to hire her. But nobody called. And she owed over $50,000 in student loans. 

Not a great way to start a career.

I did take some semesters at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, but mostly because Phil and I needed camera gear to make our own shorts. And as many of you know, that resulted in a short film called Cooperage, about a small company that made whiskey barrels. And it was a finalist in the judging at the 1967 Academy Awards.

Ok, enough of that, you've probably heard me talk about it more than once.

But the question is this;

Do you need to go to film school?

Yes and no.

For example, the woman mentioned above could have made a movie for $50,000 and would have learned more than all the classes she took.

Is $50k too much?

Well, how about $9000.

For a movie. A feature length movie of around 90 minutes. (The minimum for a feature film is 70 minutes).

Ed Burns did just that. You know, he's the "Irish Woody Allan" and he makes nice small films. Several of them were in the $3-5 million dollars each. 

But with Newlyweds, his script, he decided to make it for $9000. It added up to this:
$5000 for actors
$2000 for insurance
$2000 for food and drink.

He also had a camerman who used Burn's Canon 5D. There wasn't any soundman, the actors wore "lavs", wireless microphones. And he had friends edit and finish the movie.


And it's a good movie. I saw it on Netflix and streamed it. It was a very good movie. And it looked like a movie. I didn't believe it.

But there is a catch here. For one thing Burns already knows how to make a movie so it isn't really a learning experience. 

But anyone with a few bucks can probably hire a crew to shoot his/her movie, and probably for less. 

So where does school come in?

I think, and this comes from talking to film students, that one year of film school would be enough to introduce you to the business. Maybe two years if you want. But after that, as one student told me; "you get bitter teachers who never made their movie and all they do is to tell you how hard it is".

Making a film with limited experience will show you two things, being either:

You can't make a movie.

You can make a movie.

But it's less expensive than $50,000 or more (one student had $100,000 loans!!)

You have a huge advantage now with regards to running out and making a movie. For one thing you didn't have to purchase film and take it to a lab to develop. You can do it on an iPhone.

With Cooperage we literally had to beg, borrow and steal. 

But then, there's something else besides making a movie.

You have to have someone who can write a screenplay.

More Friday.

No comments:

Post a Comment