Green Screen Cinema Filmmaking for the 21st century

Is Film School For You?

Sunday, May 25 2008 @ 11:55 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 4,756
Free Film SchoolIndie Slate ran a great article this month in which low-budget auteur Jeff Burr (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, Puppet Master 4) said,"I think film school can be very beneficial to a lot of people. It all depends on expectation and intent. If you are just going to mark time and then use the school's equipment and feel you know it all already, then don't waste your time and money; just make a movie." Jeff attended USC Film School but left partway through the program after making the short film "Divided We Fall". Jeff said about his student experience,"In making the movie, we broke a lot of rules ... and it was apparent that USC wouldn't back another Burr/Meyer epic, so I felt it was time to leave." Jeff went on to direct over 20 feature films. One could argue that leaving film school launched Jeff's career.

At the other end of the spectrum is the sorrow of Wendy Milette. Wendy's bio says she received her Bachelors degree from USC Film School's Critical Studies program (graduating top of her class) and her MFA from USC Film School's Production program. What Wendy's site doesn't tell you (which you can find out from this incredibly detailed blog) is that Wendy was one of the chosen ones at USC. She was the TA for the head of the editing department. She was selected to direct a 581 (i.e. USC funded her film). She was provided every opportunity that USC could afford. After graduation she shot three short films and then closed down her production company (Laguna Cinema).

What conclusion can be drawn from this tale of success and woe?

The obvious conclusion is that attending film school does not cause the industry to throw their roses at your feet. In the case of Wendy Milette there is even the possibility that her film school success worked to her detriment once she left the sheltered halls of the George Lucas Instructional Building. You can lay blame on the process for advancement that USC has established. Their highly political process in no way resembles actual studio politics. Following their rules and prospering in their environment may actually prevent you from developing the skills needed to survive in the real world.

There is some evidence that USC is beginning to teach skills other than using the term mise en scène in a sentence. They converted over to digital video in May 2008 for senior projects. And in the same year the graduates from the Interactive Media Division actually left the building with some basic software development competency (even if it was only with XNA Game Studio). So there is some hope for the students of tomorrow. But do you want to be one of those students?

I know one way you can find out. Read through the articles posted herein. It may be that you never want to read about Sergei Eisenstein ever again. If that's the case (and believe me I know that feeling) then Free Film School is the place for you.

The thrust of traditional film school can be summed up by a comment a USC professor once made to me. She said, pithily,"It's like a war. You just don't go out and shoot." But today, with the free availability of digital content creation tools, the industry has devolved into something resembling a guerilla war. You need to shoot as often as you can.