Do You Need Film School

No.

Thanks for reading.

Ok, I’ll go a bit deeper.

I went to film school. It was fantastic. I would definitely say that going helped me become a better filmmaker/storyteller/human faster.

Did I need to go to be a filmmaker/storyteller/human? No. But that’s me… some people do need to go, they need the structure, they need to meet the right people. Some people definitely don’t need to go, they are already on their way to making film fantastically. Either way, Film School is definitely not going to hurt.

I studied Film Theory. They didn’t actually offer Production at my school which is a bit different than most academic entries into the wonderful world of going into debt, I mean, making films. I studies a lot of Plato, Eisenstein, watched a years worth of Buster Keaton, and even studied Pornography with Constance Penley. The idea here was to look at film from a psychological, and theoretical standpoint. Instead of learning how to make something look a certain way, we learned why something was a certain way.

I’m not going to say you needed a lot of marijuana to fully understand most of what was taught, but it was California…

Ok, so now I’m out of school, and never even saw a camera. How the hell was I going to make films?

Well, you just sorta do.

You get a camera and you start making films. You’ve heard this before. Like anything, your success depends a lot on you. Also like anything else, you need instruction despite what Robert Rodriguez or Tarantino might have you believe. Sure, you might be able to make a sound by just picking up an instrument, but you’re going to get to playing a song much faster if you have someone teaching you.

Enter the internet. That’s right, it’s much more than just a tool to watch porn.

The first thing I learned was how to edit. This made sense because if you make films, and you suck, which you do, no one will want to edit your film. You can find a cameraman, actors, even a lowly sound guy, but an editor? Good luck. I still have a love hate relationship with editing, even though it eventually became a very serious career for me before I had enough skill to call myself a director. Being an editor is also an advantage at any level of production, no matter what you want to do. It’s like being a composer that plays another instrument. You just get the big picture.

How did I learn? http://www.creativecow.net

Before www.nofilmschool.com and other sites whose sole goal was to replace conventional film school, creative cow was the place to get free instruction. You could, and still can, learn absolutely ANYTHING. Final cut? Check. After Effects? Check. Da Vinci? Check. The name Aharon Rabinowitz taught me more than any professor in college, and for absolutely free. Indebted is not the word.

I have a nostalgia for these tutorials from time to time. They were funny, with cheesy jokes, easy to follow, and were at a time when filmmaking was still so new, and the idea of not having to work at a bar, or hotel, or retail was still so far off.

The way this learning worked was actually quite genius. Say you wanted to make something “glow” in post. You would search for it, and maybe find a tutorial on how to make a light saber effect. Not exactly what you wanted to do, but once you learned the skill you could apply it any creative way you wanted to. If you were in a classroom, the teacher may show you a different “more correct” way to get the result of what you wanted, but this way, you were using tools that perhaps weren’t designed for what you were wanting to do, in a novel way. That created originality. It also allowed you to do anything you want and not feel like you were doing it “wrong”.

There are a dozen ways to skin a cat, and about 30 ways to roto an object out of a frame.

So for me, I feel like film school was a great addition to my career. I feel that if I went to a production school, I may have entered my chosen profession earlier, but, would have had way less of a unique voice. I think by studying the philosophy of cinema first, then teaching myself the technical aspect of filmmaking, my craft is just that, craft. Self made. My own. I would imagine if I went to USC perhaps I would have been on a set at 21, and being told to make film a certain way, having my style be given to me more than formed. Mind you there is nothing wrong with that, I just think personally feeling that I don’t have a cinematic voice and trying to find it years after forming my craft would be way harder than working at the front desk of a hotel for a handful of years before teaching myself enough to call myself a filmmaker and be hired to do just that.

So, do you need film school? No. Is it useful? Yes. Most useful is your drive to learn, which if you have a strong one, the sky is truly the limit.

Categories: filmmaking, humor, life lessons

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