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Film School or Not -- An Alternative

Updated on April 3, 2018
Kenna McHugh profile image

Kenna worked on many productions as PA, Craft Services, Talent Scout, Grip, and Producer. Credits include Bowling for Columbine, Wallace.

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Film School or No Film School

Deciding film school or no film school is a choice that will determine how you plan on developing your film career. If you pursue film school, you will need a ton of money. You will need to know how to build working relationships in school. You will need to choose a film school with dedicated and strong alumni. Many blockbuster filmmakers went to film school. Why should you go?

It might make your parents happy, but put a big old dent in their pocketbook or credit score.

Some say if you got the dough, you might as well go. At least you will be able to cut your teeth by working on films in school and even producing your own as graduation criteria.

Knowledge is power. The more you know about the business of film business the better off you will be. But, do you need to go to film school to get that knowledge?

So, look and see what you think of this website mentioned below. Further down the page, there some questions for you to answer, which should help you decide film school or no film school.

Some say it is important to go to film school while others say why not just get a jump-start on your career -- learn the ropes as you go. Many blockbuster filmmakers never went to film school as well. Why should you go?

What Do You Think?

Have you ever applied something you’ve heard in an interview to your own career?

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Cost of Film School

Those who say you need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get a decent moviemaking education are clearly living in the Stone Age. These days, all you need is Internet access to an online film school and the willingness to listen to some good advice. With Fat Free Film, this type of DIY film school is just a mouse click away.

Founded by independent moviemakers Joel Marshall and Kamala Lopez-Dawson, Fat Free Film is essentially a series of in-depth interviews with members of the moviemaking community. Over the course of the episode, interviewees-including Henry Jaglom and Peter Bogdanovich - weigh in on how to make it in the indie film world, and provide some choice anecdotes while they are teaching the fundamentals of filmmaking.

What Do You Think?

Do you think anecdotes and advice from professional filmmakers add to one’s movie making education?

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No Film School

You can attend a film school with strong alumni and network. There you can meet students who have the same desire as you to produce movies. Writer and director Nicole Holofcener told me in an interview while in film school in New York she met her producer for Walking and Talking. The movie was her first feature and launched Catherine Keener, Liev Schreiber, and Anne Heche. Holofcener noted to me that her producer friend was instrumental in getting the film done and in the movie theaters. In the same interview, she told me that film school is a great idea as long as you have the funds.

The cost of film school ranges between $7,000 to $50,000 per semester. It depends on which film school you pick.

You can ignore film school, save money, and work your way up the industry later. I spoke with an owner of Puppet Artist, who works in the film industry. He told me he rather hire someone who isn’t fresh out of film school. He likes working with people who work hard and are willing to learn the ropes.

The list of self-taught directors and producers are endless. Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Francis Ford Coppola are just a few to name. Each one has their story of how they worked their way into the film industry and became successful.

Source

“The beauty of our show is that it reaches places where there are no film schools. Places where our listeners may be the only person in his or her town or village who has any interest in the art of filmmaking,”

— Joe Marshall, Founder of Fat Free Film

Fat Free Film School

But Fat Free Film doesn’t simply focus on the typical interview subjects like actors and directors. The school goes behind the scenes to talk to editors, distributors, costume designers and many other underappreciated but essential members of the film world. Fat Free Film’s ultimate goal is to create a virtual moviemaking community.

Marshall notes, “The beauty of our show is that it reaches places where there are no film schools. Places where our listeners may be the only person in his or her town or village who has any interest in the art of filmmaking,”

Marshall further says, “Trying to break into filmmaking can be a very daunting and isolating experience, and what we are trying to do with Fat Free Film is reach out to each other, share our stories, help each other and create a network of people with similar interests and goals who can support each other.”

James Cameron Skipped Film School

Before he became involved in the film industry, James Cameron was a machinist and trucker. His first job in the industry was as a model maker on a film produced by the notorious low-budget film producer Roger Corman's New World Pictures in 1979.

Cameron recalled the job to Paula Parisi of the Hollywood Reporter in 1995. He talked about the miniature work was going well and the live-action set work too. Director Jimmy Murakami was having trouble figuring out how to combine the two elements. Cameron convinced him to apply the little-used technique of front projection as the solution and he was the man for the job. The Cameron was knighted supervisor of process projection. Four weeks later, they fired the art director and asked Cameron to take the position.

Before he was ever on a film set, Cameron studied that technique in the library at USC film school. He taught himself how to make movies, and he was able to see opportunity knock while on the set.

Cameron's next project was as co-supervisor of visual effects for John Carpenter's 1981 film Escape From New York. Cameron's work on the film consisted mostly of supervising model making and process photography. Once that project was completed, Cameron moved right on to his next project Galaxy of Terror, also released in '81. On that production, he designed the sets, miniatures, costumes, and second-unit direction.

Best Film School is Experience

Cameron's first shot at the director's helm was for another independent producer. The association developed out of his tenure at New World, which made Joe Dante's Piranha in 1978. Corman sold the sequel rights to two Italian producers, who needed a director for this tale of killer fish that takes to the air to terrorize a beach of bikini-clad beauties.

Cameron's luck would have it, in the course of their search they happened to visit the set of Galaxy of Terror while Cameron was directing a second-unit scene.

As he recounted this pivotal event in his career some years later, Cameron recalled that a scene he was directing was of dismembered arm lying on the ground: "It's supposed to be covered with maggots ... and they've got it covered with this tub of mealworms. You can buy them in pet stores; they're feed for fish, fairly innocuous little creatures. They're pretty law-abiding; they don't do very much... They're supposed to be writhing around but they just sat there."

His solution was to run some hidden electrical wires to the slugs and deliver a few inspirational jolts. Just then, the two future Piranha II producers strolled onto the set to watch.

Cameron called "Action!" - the cue for the technician who was hidden out of eye range to throw the juice. "The worms start moving like crazy. I say: 'OK that's good. Cut.' He pulls the plug and the worms stop. I turn around and these two producers are just gaping. I guess they figured out that if I I could get a performance out of maggots, I should be OK with actors, so they offered me the film."

Should I Go to Film School?

"Should I go to film school?" is a great question and requires weighing the pros and the cons of going. The biggest pro is networking with other people who want to work in film. The biggest con is the cost with no guarantees of success. You still have to work hard and build your credits.

If you go to film school, give it all you got and don't waste the expense. If you decided not to go to film school, be prepared to build your film career by working hard and building your film credits.

In all honesty, getting a job in the film industry is not hard as long as you are willing to work hard and be available to work anytime and anywhere Once you have your film career established, you can pick and choose your projects or create your own projects.

© 2007 Kenna McHugh

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    • Kenna McHugh profile image
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      Kenna McHugh 4 years ago from Northern California

      Podcasts are so valuable on the Internet now. Take advantage of them is one way of getting your foot in the door.

    • profile image

      Alamac Mumsy 10 years ago

      Fat free film podcasts are extremely informative and unique. It has tried to show every aspect of the difficult and enjoyable journey that is film making.

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