Filmmaking is an art and it also a science. There is an art of telling stories and there is also a science behind how you do it. To be a good filmmaker you need to be good in both. As a newbie, you will probably ask, How will you learn them? What better than a film school.
The answer is obvious but let me share few experiences. I had attended a week long direction workshop from a film school professor who directed many famous TV series like Twilight zone and Nightrider. He had no formal film school education and yet he was a professor teaching filmmaking. The workshop was awesome because he shared a lot of anecdotes from his filmmaking experience and not from the film theories.
We were mostly newbies, though I had made some experimental films. What I could acquire from his workshop, many couldn’t. They were all at sea because they never delved into the process earlier unlike me. Unless you take a plunge you can’t swim. Swimming can’t be taught, techniques can be. You don’t need to go to a school for that.
Later, I also had the opportunity to guest lecture in a film school. I was very curious because I thought that I will have access to all the courses and my void of not getting a formal education will be fulfilled. Strange enough, the material was so theoretical, I got disinterested in no time and I thanked myself for not wasting my valuable years. I wasn’t interested in the history of cinema and the 100-year-old ways of filmmaking. With due respect to our filmmaking ancestors, it wasn’t teaching me any craft. Google and Wikipedia can quench these quests.
“When people ask me if I went to film school, I tell them, ‘No, I went to films,’”- Quentin Tarantino
Now, to be honest, I have my bias against film schools because I never went there. But I see all my colleagues from film schools are in the same water, where we are swimming. They may be favored initially, but with time, they have to show what they are. You become good, not with your passion, talent, and knowledge but, by practicing them.
This is also very subjective because some really need that formal education to get their feet on the ground and I don’t deny that. But today, when the whole world of knowledge resides inside your cell phone, I find it a bit awkward to spend a substantial amount of money, which is unaffordable for many, into training that can be learned using the knowledge available to us for cheap. Today I have access to all the film books unlike a decade back.
“How do you get to be a filmmaker?’ I say, ‘Go home, pick up your video camera, and make a film.”- James Cameron.
There are certain technical streams like cinematography, sound, visual effects and editing that does require formal training. To be very frank, my visual effects learning came from online forums and good mentors.-With the advent of DSLRs, cell phones apps and desktop softwares anybody can learn these skills at home.
So, I decided to bust some myths about getting film degrees.
10 Film School Myths Busted.
1. Film schools are expensive because the process is expensive:
It is true that film school fees are exorbitant but filmmaking is not. I always stress – Anybody can make films. It defeats the purpose if the schools are not easily accessible to all. We have lost so many good movies which could have been made. It pains me. But thankfully today, making movies have become inexpensive and affordable. You rather make films than going to school.
“Trying to make a film yourself with no money is the best film school you can do.”- Quentin Tarantino.
2. Film school has the access to the best of cinema resources :
It is not a vanity anymore. We have access to the best of the classics and film books on many open libraries and online platforms. Now, students have their own film archives and reference libraries at home.Every movie and a book is just a click away.
3. Film School offers complete knowledge on filmmaking:
Complete knowledge is a misnomer. You have to always update yourself with new inventions and style. Film schools adopt things much slower than the filmmakers. If you seek knowledge, you can get it from your mentors or forums. The best advice I can offer is to join a small indie crew as an assistant and observe the real process. You gain the best knowledge when you are on the battlefield.
4. Film school allows us to use expensive high-tech equipment:
High-tech equipment is just tools. You don’t need to use expensive equipment to learn filmmaking. They are many good inexpensive alternatives. Some even cost lesser than your cell phone. A lot of operative videos are available online for free and the investment in the filmmaking equipment for newbies is peanuts compared to the fees. You can also hire the equipment on a day to day basis or own your gadgets too and get a better return on your investment.
“I used to noodle around with the camera but I didn’t go to film school,”- Christopher Nolan
5. Film Schools offer specialization in various fields:
Filmmaking encompasses many skill sets. Yes, it is true that Film Schools offer specialization in various skills. But, as a filmmaker, you need to have a wholesome knowledge on almost all of them. But, you don’t need to animate a complicated 3D creature rig or light a war scene. If you make your own films and participate in everything, you will be far ahead than a film student.
“Doing everything myself I gained a sound and comprehensive grasp of all the technical aspects of filmmaking.” Stanley Kubrick.
6. A Film Degree accelerates the chances to get into the industry:
There are no hard and fast rules for that. The industry always welcomes anyone with talent. We would not have the Spielbergs or the Camerons if that was the case.If you want to learn a technical skill, you should join as you will get a good job. I am not sure if you want to pay through your nose for that what you can learn at home with very little money. Like film directors, there are many cinematographers and editors without a formal degree.
I have spent more than 15 years in animation and visual effects but learned most of my skills on the job. I kept myself updated from the community.Most the famous and great filmmakers who make billions for the box-office, do not have film degrees. Do you think the studio will be so foolish to reject you?
7. Film School is a heaven of great training and systematic learning :
I know many friends who said they have had the time of their lives in film schools. It has a utopian element to it. You access the best of films and be a part of great discussions. The training is awesome and the world is just too good. When you come out, the reality bites and heaven comes falling down. The moment you are severed from the umbilical cord, you are all by yourself. The real world is brutal. Big monies are at stake. Everything is time bound. Every minute, you face a new challenge.
“Film school is for fools. Live and learn how to make films. I didn’t go to film school. I just watched movies in the cinemas. And probably my greater education was actually making films, so that’s all I would ever say: watch movies, get a camera, make a movie. And if you do it enough times, eventually you start learning how films are made.”-Terry Gilliam
8. Film school offers great master classes and open discussions:
Just search youtube, and you have them all. DVDs have been offering director’s commentaries and making of the film for some time. You have film festivals and film seminars. There are great film websites and online forums where you share knowledge and techniques.
9. Film School makes you well prepared:
Filmmaking is also about handling chaos. All the parts of the body don’t move in a synchronous manner when you are out on a shooting location. There are internal ego conflicts and external turbulence.No one teaches that in schools. Experience is the biggest teacher.
Today, you can make films in your backyard and learn from your mistakes quickly. Making movies has less glamour and more hard work than you may think.
10. Film School makes you a better filmmaker:
It is not how you learn the tools and the techniques. It is how you create it. Film schooling may have its advantages but they will never guarantee your success. If yes, then the statement is absurd. You are good by not what you are, but what you create. Like in screenwriting, you write the character by not what it says but what it does.
As Stanley Kubrick puts out perfectly – “The best thing that young filmmakers can do is to get a camera and make a movie of any kind”
As a newbie, you must be seriously confused and always yo-yo between this two thoughts – to go or not to go. I have my biases. It is up to you to figure it out. I am not saying you should not go to any Film School. They will offer you the best armors. No doubt about it. My opinion is your war has to be won by how you use them when it is needed and not by flashing them.
Why did I name my website on Film School then?
Now, you may think if I am not so much in favor of film schools, why did I name it Newbie “ Film School “? Well, to be very frank, I don’t believe in the concept of schooling. Earlier, Schools were the only institution for knowledge. Today the concept has changed.
The online revolution is the knowledge revolution. Schools will be extinct in the future. Today, you have access to the best in their business.I missed all that when I started out to make movies. Making movies was never a dream of a middle-class home. Today anybody can dream to make one.
In, Newbie Film School, I will share what I have learned and pass it forward to you guys.
Please leave your comment or share with your friends, if it was any help to you. I will be happy to answer. Your feedbacks are important.