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I want to study film, am I insane?


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40 replies to this topic

#1 of 41 OFFLINE   Ricardo C

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Posted January 15 2004 - 06:45 PM

Let me explain Posted Image

I'm not the guy who used to make movies as a kid using dad's sound-less b&w camera, recruiting family and friends as my stars. I have no life-long dreams of remaking a classic film. My own storytelling aspirations actually leaned toward comic books and prose. I have absolutely no experience whatsoever with film as a medium, or as an industry. Yet I would like to learn the craft.

I'm considering enrolling in the writing program at Vancouver Film School (still working out the money side of things), and while looking at the other courses they offer, I started reading up on their film program, and found that it actually sounded very exciting, and thought I could enroll in it after completing the writing program.

Am I being terminally impulsive, or delusional, or both? After all, for me to study writing makes sense, since it's something I know I'm good at, and it's an area in which I have some experience: I won't be completely lost. Film, on the other hand, is uncharted territory. I'm a decent pencil artist, but that's as far as my visual storytelling experience goes. And yet the idea of learning to bring my own writing to life is so appealing... Maybe it all ties back into me being a control freak who has to do everything himself :P)

I know there's several aspiring filmmakers here at HTF, and more than a couple of pros. What say you? Do I still have time to learn the art of filmmaking, or did I miss the boat by not developing an interest in it from an early age?

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#2 of 41 OFFLINE   Don Black

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Posted January 15 2004 - 07:53 PM

There is a stigma attached to film programs so that they tend to be extremely tough in order to prove "that film is a really academic discipline too."

Most film programs tend to focus more on film theory and not on film-making. The coursework is very tedious unless you really are into film theory. Personally, I feel like such an approach ruins the experience. Moreover, such an approach has little to no impact on real world cinematic applications.

So be careful. Make sure you know what you're getting into.

#3 of 41 OFFLINE   JasenP

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Posted January 16 2004 - 12:09 AM

Learn the practical side (lighting, sound, camera operation etc..) and the rest will come. Theory is a little too open ended to study in my opinion.
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#4 of 41 OFFLINE   Seth--L

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Posted January 16 2004 - 01:02 AM

At many universities, the film major is taught like an English major where films are your texts. You end up doing more reading and writing than many majors.

The reason that few schools focus on the mechanics of filmmaking for four years is because that could not sustain itself for so long and would be quite expensive. You can learn how to use all the major equipment in about a semester. You do not need to be shooting films all 4 years to get this. The best place to often learn this kind of stuff are at summer intensive classes.

Personally, I feel like such an approach ruins the experience. Moreover, such an approach has little to no impact on real world cinematic applications.


I disagree. My best film classes are my non-production classes. While learning about urban planning as seen through film probably won't make me a better filmmaker, I'm now a more well-rounded knowledgeable person for having read the writings of people like Le Corbusier and Frank Llyod Wright.
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#5 of 41 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted January 16 2004 - 01:55 AM

It is not too late—it’s never too late to get into the right career. If I were advising, I’d think about studying film at the graduate level. This is where the course work is oriented towards actually making films.

You should be aware that most film programs where the emphasis is on making films, tend to be quite expensive. It costs quite a bit to make even a 10 or 15 minute film, much less a feature-length film that might be required for a thesis.

Consider carefully your interests, as film schools vary widely as to their approach: some schools require specialization early in the program—others do not. You might check out Film School Confidential, which lists the top graduate programs (about 20–25) in the States. It has a fair amount of detail about each program and will be very helpful in setting your expectations (even from an undergraduate perspective).

The is also a more comprehensive book titled, “The Complete Guide to American Film Schools and Cinema and Television Courses[/i], which lists all film schools in the States, graduate, undergraduate and practical (such as community colleges). This book is probably not quite so helpful in deciding on film as a career.

Both these are available from Amazon.
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#6 of 41 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted January 16 2004 - 01:58 AM

BTW, I agree with Seth’s point. It is very helpful to have a well rounded background (which is why I don’t think that it is necessarily helpful to study film as an undergraduate). It will also be quite an advantage since you are a good writer.

Good luck.
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#7 of 41 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted January 16 2004 - 02:58 AM

Ricardo, here is a link for Film School Confidential.


There is quite a bit of text online, though not the descriptions of the individual schools.

The first several pages have a wealth of great advice. You might like to read this before deciding anything firm.
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#8 of 41 OFFLINE   JustinCleveland

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Posted January 16 2004 - 03:02 AM

If you're going to go ahead, and go the academic route, I'd suggest going through a broad-based liberal arts program with some training in film theory, and then enroll in an MFA program.

#9 of 41 OFFLINE   Erik.Ha

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Posted January 16 2004 - 03:08 AM

I work in the entertainment industry, and I can suggest going to one of two film schools ONLY, USC and UCLA.
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#10 of 41 OFFLINE   Rob Lutter

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Posted January 16 2004 - 03:11 AM

Goooood luck. I'm an aspring film major (although still a long ways off from actually getting a degree) *adjusts tie*

Just do what you like... I have a love for film and I went with it. All I know is I'd be a lot less happy in life if I had to take business courses and then sit behind a desk the rest of my life Posted Image *shrug* Just remember that most film programs are limited-access, so you'll have to at least have >some< ideas/examples of your work to get in. For instance, I was an amateur photograher in high school for the yearbook committee, so I sent some of my nicer photos... I also wrote a short screenplay and included an essay about grass (yes, that thing that grows on the ground).

I didn't include any with my portfolio (it's kinda amateurish), but I was FASCINATED by stop-motion photography when I was a kid. I have all kinds of movies of my action figures attacking each other, dancing, and doing other weird stuff... heheh.

My school also has an internship program with the major studios in the area (Orlando) and also with the studios in LA, so I am hoping I can find a job that way. Might even look into getting my MFA over in Cali.

#11 of 41 OFFLINE   Francois Caron

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Posted January 16 2004 - 04:24 AM

Have you checked out Concordia University in Montreal? They have a highly reputable program there. I even sometimes watch the year-end student presentations. At the very least, they can be great for laughs. Posted Image On a more serious side, most of the presentations are highly professional even amongst the first year students.

#12 of 41 OFFLINE   Don Black

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Posted January 16 2004 - 08:34 AM

There was a great article in either the LA or NY Times last year that told the story of an industry person who sent his daughter to film school (UCLA) and was shocked to find that his daughter kept bringing home Cs.

So he started to look at her CV and basically said that everything they were learning was so esoteric and asinine that it had no relation to the real world at all.

Academia for academia's sake is just silly.

#13 of 41 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted January 16 2004 - 08:49 AM

Quote:
industry person who sent his daughter to film school (UCLA) and was shocked to find that his daughter kept bringing home Cs.

Nothing on the right or wrong of her course of study, but…

he would not be the first father to be shocked, shocked at a daughter (or son) making C’s.
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#14 of 41 OFFLINE   Seth--L

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Posted January 16 2004 - 09:35 AM

There was a great article in either the LA or NY Times last year that told the story of an industry person who sent his daughter to film school (UCLA) and was shocked to find that his daughter kept bringing home Cs.

So he started to look at her CV and basically said that everything they were learning was so esoteric and asinine that it had no relation to the real world at all.

Academia for academia's sake is just silly.

Here's a link to the article: Click Me

In my opinion, the writer does is flat out wrong. His lengthy article can be summarized as such: His daughter received a C on her final in a film theory class at UC Santa Barbara. In the final she was tested on such ideas as Marxism. Marxism has nothing to do with making Hollywood movies. Therefore she shouldn't be tested on Marxism, should not have received that grade, and the school is wasting the writer's money.

There are two important points I want to make here.

1) The writer and aspiring film majors need to look at the bigger picture. Learning and understanding ideas like Marxism is a lot more important than knowing the ins-and-outs of a light meter, or watching every Hitchcock film (and I say that as a huge Hitch fan). Film programs like the one talked about in this article attempt to give students a broad liberal arts education, which they should have. Programs like the one at UC Santa Barbara (like mine at Cornell University) use film to teach everything from political theory to polish history. Schools don't try and hide this, like the writer implies. He and his daughter should have better investigated the university's program before she decided to UC Santa Barbara.

2) If all the father and daughter cared about was her learning how to use the equipment and getting a job in the studio system, which is all they do, she should have gone to a communications school. The film major is supposed to be "Academia for academia's sake."

I think that the daughter is just a fair student at best, and that's why she received a C.
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#15 of 41 OFFLINE   Ricardo C

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Posted January 16 2004 - 09:54 AM

If that's what passes for "film school", then I'll stick to writing, thank you.

No disrespect intended, folks, and I appreciate all the replies very much, but if there's any truth at all in that article, the author's bias notwithstanding, then trust me, studying film in anm academic setting will NOT be for me.

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#16 of 41 OFFLINE   Seth--L

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Posted January 16 2004 - 09:59 AM

Ricardo_C,

Welcome to the world of the University Liberal Arts program.
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#17 of 41 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted January 16 2004 - 10:21 AM

Seth I could not agree with your points more. A class in film theory is by definition not a class in anything practical. Clearly his daughter was an upperclassman, so by this time (at any reasonable university course of study) the theory should be both difficult and a bit esoteric.

There is one very important, practical life lesson that was given in the class and in writing for the exam: the student (later the employee) does not get to set the rules—and those who set the rules often do so in arbitrary and capricious ways. The professor demanding that certain specific wording is to be used instead of words and phrases that the employee (or student) thinks are more appropriate happens to most of us in life. Get over it, girl. Use the words required. Dad, apparently a professional writer knows full well that writing for Variety will require the use of a different vocabulary and style than the one his editors and publishers require for his Peckinpah.

And one more, real life lesson. His daughter’s portfolio will be vastly more important in getting a job or into an M.F.A. program than the fact she got a ‘C’ on a film theory class.

In short, quit whining and grow up.
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#18 of 41 OFFLINE   Seth--L

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Posted January 16 2004 - 10:27 AM

His daughter’s portfolio will be vastly more important in getting a job or into an M.F.A. program than the fact she got a ‘C’ on a film theory class.


Well, you do want to have the best possible GPA...
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#19 of 41 OFFLINE   Francois Caron

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Posted January 16 2004 - 11:25 AM

Here's a school that was featured on TechTV's The Screen Savers. I almost forgot about it!

http://www.webfilmschool.com/

It's a two day course that teaches you all the basics. No old movie philosophy, no studying styles of dead directors, no need to follow a professor's strict and possibly outdated filmmaking style... Just the facts. Lighting, sound, purchasing film stock, hiring an appropriate crew, getting a distribution deal...

You could try this for starters, then see if you want to go to UCLA afterwards.

#20 of 41 OFFLINE   Ricardo C

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Posted January 16 2004 - 06:55 PM

François, that sounds very interesting, and seems like the ideal introduction for someone like me. Thanks for the link Posted Image

Seth, Lew, while I wouldn't be against taking the classes described in the article (as outlandish as they, the teachers, and the politics involved sound to me), I do find it abnormal that they form the core of the film program, as opposed to, you know, the actual art of filmmaking. I don't doubt I would gain something from studying the subjects in question (an alternate perspective, if nothing else), but I was rather disappointed nonetheless.

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