Jump to content


Photo

Good and Bad Experiences at Bristish Film Schools


  • Please log in to reply
78 replies to this topic

#1 Andy_Alderslade

Andy_Alderslade
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1055 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • London, UK

Posted 14 February 2006 - 05:26 PM

Today I finally officially graduated my MA in Film and Television Production from the university of Bristol.

The course has a great reputation as a practical filmmaking course (being the first in the UK).

Alas I and many others found it a complete travesty, being a complete waste of time and a great deal of money.

Has anybody got any familiar experiences to make me feel better?

Edited by Andy_Alderslade, 14 February 2006 - 05:33 PM.

  • 0

#2 Andy_Alderslade

Andy_Alderslade
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1055 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • London, UK

Posted 16 February 2006 - 05:25 AM

If anybody is interested in the MA in Film and Television Production Course at the University of Bristol, here is a lengthy review written by a classmate:

http://www.filmmakin.....nited Kingdom

Here is the Course Director's view on things:

http://www.petermet....asterframe.html
  • 0

#3 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11939 posts
  • Other

Posted 16 February 2006 - 06:31 AM

Hi,

Yup, that's more or less what I'd expect to get.

On the upside, compared to somewhere like USC it really isn't that expensive. You get what you pay for.

Phil
  • 0

#4 Andy_Alderslade

Andy_Alderslade
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1055 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • London, UK

Posted 16 February 2006 - 07:46 AM

On the upside, compared to somewhere like USC it really isn't that expensive. You get what you pay for.

Phil



A closer to home comparison could be the NFTS where the yearly EU fees are £5000 compared to Bristol's £9000 for the year. Though admidetly the NFTS is heavely subsidised, they shoot a lot of material and have amazing facilities and equipment.

At USC they also shoot a lot material, and in far more expensive and exclusive education system.


At bristol, even though I did the camera unit, I personally shot no more than a wopping 200.' Had I done the lighting unit I probably would have shot a whole 200' more... but though I really wanted to, I was'nt allowed to do the lighting unit.... their reason - "we have to fit the pegs in the available slots."

Oh I admit I did shoot a further 2 DVCPRO tapes.
;)

Edited by Andy_Alderslade, 16 February 2006 - 07:51 AM.

  • 0

#5 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11939 posts
  • Other

Posted 16 February 2006 - 11:22 AM

Hi,

All I can say, again, is "What did you expect." Actually, seriously - what did you expect?

You will not get regular working filmmakers giving lectures in the UK as there are only three of them and they are generally busy making films. You will not get to shoot much as it is so hopelessly expensive, particularly in the UK.

It depends what the qualification is worth to you. I would suggest that in a monetary sense it's not worth very much. I'd have much rather spent nine grand on two or three really good short films.

Phil
  • 0

#6 Andy_Alderslade

Andy_Alderslade
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1055 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • London, UK

Posted 17 February 2006 - 08:24 AM

Hi,

All I can say, again, is "What did you expect." Actually, seriously - what did you expect?

Phil


I guess I was expecting a years worth of what I got from my production modules on my mostly theoretical Film Studies degree at the University of Kent.

There I was taught by Sarah Tuner from the London avante-guarde scene, who gave us incredible freedom over our projects (apart from the first and only rule - no comedies) and was always extremly energetic about all our work, though was often very blunt. She brought in gifted individuals in to teach us different areas including Natasha Braier (www.natashabraier.com) to teach us camera and Anna Pangbourne to teach us sound design. When the project I was working on needed a lot of rotoscoping of drawings and maps, the technician bought some computer software to allow us to do it best. All this was of course on miniDV and there wasn't a dolly in sight... but some of our work turned out actually very good and was well recieved in festivals.

...It left me like a vampire wanting more, where I could concentrate exclusively on the practicle side and not having to balance it with an essay on Francois Truffaut or post-modernism.


Instead what I got was 4 very fustrated "teachers" who treated us like already cashed in paychecks.

In the end how much film you shoot or how good the facilities are, doesn't matter as much as the enthusiasm to try different things.

I've focus pulled on an NFTS shoot and the thing that really stocked my jelously was not their budgets, or the facilities or their gear... but their experiences and stories of trying this, that and everthing.

I inteviewed the schools Cinematography tutor Brian Tuffano for an essay, and as a proffesional he is still incredibly energetic and willing to experiment and test equipment and processes even when his initial instincts tells him otherwise.

At Bristol our illustrious camera teacher Peter Milner, talked our crew (on a shoot by the sea) out of using a polarizer because you lost to much light. (Outdoors?)
I once sugested that we shoot a scene handheld I've never recieved such a dirty look!
:unsure:
  • 0

#7 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11939 posts
  • Other

Posted 17 February 2006 - 09:02 AM

Hi,

> ...It left me like a vampire wanting more,

Welcome to the rest of your life. Unfortunately your needs are unlikely to be met in the UK.

> Instead what I got was 4 very fustrated "teachers"

Yep, normal.

Phil
  • 0

#8 Andy_Alderslade

Andy_Alderslade
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1055 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • London, UK

Posted 17 February 2006 - 09:45 AM

Welcome to the rest of your life. Unfortunately your needs are unlikely to be met in the UK.


Phil


That's it i'm moving to spain!
;)
  • 0

#9 ben jones

ben jones
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 45 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • winchester

Posted 16 March 2006 - 06:07 AM

did you ever concider the surrey institute of art and design? Its a small (but highly regarded) art college in the middle of the countryside. It offers a fantastic and well supported cinematography speciallism with 35mm masterclasses with the likes of billy williams and jack cardiff. Although I myself would have like to go to the NFTS at some stage for the cinematography MA, we beat them many times in competitions and festivals. most people there are hard working, and the place and situation has a good effect on people - If I learned anything, it was to be resourceful and to look to your your imediate environment for sollutions! I had the best years of my life so far there (and the all night forest raves are something else!)
  • 0

#10 Mark Williams

Mark Williams
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 811 posts
  • Director
  • United Kingdom

Posted 16 March 2006 - 06:30 AM

B)-->
QUOTE(major B @ Mar 16 2006, 11:07 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>

did you ever concider the surrey institute of art and design? Its a small (but highly regarded) art college in the middle of the countryside. It offers a fantastic and well supported cinematography speciallism with 35mm masterclasses with the likes of billy williams and jack cardiff. Although I myself would have like to go to the NFTS at some stage for the cinematography MA, we beat them many times in competitions and festivals. most people there are hard working, and the place and situation has a good effect on people - If I learned anything, it was to be resourceful and to look to your your imediate environment for sollutions! I had the best years of my life so far there (and the all night forest raves are something else!)
[/quote]
I have thought about film school many times.. I always thought they may get more funding and freebies from within the industry keen to help up and coming new talent.. A good school should really have teachers sponsers and invited speakers from within the industry after all its there future profits at stake here?

At the back of my mind though I feared what you said would really be the case.. ONE thing that would make it all worthwhile is CONTACTS and jobs the school can get you... Its not what you know its who you know very OFTEN...
  • 0

#11 Andy_Alderslade

Andy_Alderslade
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1055 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • London, UK

Posted 16 March 2006 - 09:11 AM

At the back of my mind though I feared what you said would really be the case.. ONE thing that would make it all worthwhile is CONTACTS and jobs the school can get you... Its not what you know its who you know very OFTEN...


In truth i reckon if you keep your eyes open you can select a good school from viewing the value and quality of the facilities and rating the dynamism and experience of tutors. In truth I went to Bristol because the careers advisor at my previous univeristy was adament that Bristol was in the top 3 of film production cources and when I went for my interview there and viewed the department I was quite sedated on pain killers (I'd cracked my head on the 'overhead' bars on a tube train in the journey there).

Therefore I actually ignored a strong negative gut-feeling I had about the place. The careers advisor would have been right had he been talking 20 years ago, when the department was run by Proffessor George Brandt who started practicle film education in the UK, he taught Michael Winterbottom, Alex Cox and Mark Evans among others.

Since leaving the course, I realise its been completly unhelpful, nobody has heard of the course - its just another media course in many peoples eyes, and it taught me some bad technical habbits (like cleaning the gate with a tooth-pick - as they taught me!) which I quickly had to correct. I'm still upset by the unproffesional behavior of the staff now, but worst of all its zapped a lot of confidence i had previously.

From what I know of the people who went to and from what I've seen of it the NFTS is great. My only critisism of the NFTS is there are no equal UK competetors (in terms of facilities, staff, funding) against it, which is very important otherwise only one stategy is taught. Its particularly important in fields like directing that an alternative is taught to provide a healthy balance.

So now I know what to do: start actually getting paid for my film work, make some decent stuff and set up a quality filmschool. :blink:

Edited by Andy_Alderslade, 16 March 2006 - 09:13 AM.

  • 0

#12 Laura Redpath

Laura Redpath

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 5 posts
  • 2nd Assistant Camera
  • London

Posted 22 April 2006 - 01:46 PM

i just thought i'd throw my 2 cents in, i was so glad to see major b's post, there seems to be so much negativity here about uk film schools. i'm at the surrey institute of art and design studying film and video and i absolutely love it. its a great enviroment and its good to be around other art students, i think it gives it a nice creative atmosphere. i think our teachers are absolutly wonderful, im about to embark on the kodak student commerical competition and they have been very supportive. we also just had our billy williams master class which was an excellent opportunity to have. no course is perfect and no course is going to get you a job just because you've done that course (it really is who you know), but personally i am there simply to learn, be creative, and have a damn good time doing it.

oh and i dont want to see any replies to this preaching about how i'm going to have no money and no job because i go to school in the u.k, iv read it in other threads and i really dont care about other people's negative opinions of my university choice.
  • 0

#13 Michael Collier

Michael Collier
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1262 posts
  • Gaffer
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 22 April 2006 - 03:59 PM

hows this for a bad experience (its an american school, but i think all schools are the same) I had come in with several feature length videos all ready under my belt. I started making student projects long before the course allowed, but profs were eager seeing a title sequence I made. They got some producers to help us work around the rules of the school (basicly the producers checked gear out in their name and we did all the work)

First I ended up teaching a lot of the classes. Both showing profs in private tips and tricks I had learned, and walked around and gave advice and help to all the other students. Then when our project finnished up and had a good reception, I found out weeks later that the producers who had only checked equipment had put my work on their reel, claiming director credit.

Yeah. That was about enough for me. I dropped out of that school and within a few weeks some of the people in the department were paying me to DoP their projects. So I learned a good lesson, people are shady and will screw you over if you dont watch it, and I learned how to sell my experience and talent. Maybe a bit round about, but I think I learned the true lessons needed for the film industry
  • 0

#14 Morgan Peline

Morgan Peline
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 417 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 25 April 2006 - 07:38 PM

Hi,

I'd love to gripe but I'm having fun (though it is fairly quiet at the moment...) and I've improved a lot...well, I think so anyway. 'Difficulties in job hunting upon graduation' problems aside, I'm very glad I am at the NFTS.

By the way, two out of six of this year's cinematography graduates were originally from the Surrey Institute anyhows. Suzie Lavelle and Bjorn Stale Bratberg. So no matter what you guys say about beating us in competitions (which I'll have to verify statistically as it all sounds very fishy to me, considering 'We Are The Best!'), it seems you guys end up joining us anyway...the new Surrey Institute college motto must be:

'If you can't beat them all the time, then join them!' :P
  • 0

#15 Morgan Peline

Morgan Peline
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 417 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 25 August 2006 - 06:01 PM

Hi,

I was just reading a post on filmmaker.com in the LOAFS section from someone at UCLA about how people have to 'apply' for money for their thesis films and it's not always guaranteed. And I just thought how lucky I was to have just completed my graduation film at the NFTS...and it was on 16mm...actual neg, which is becoming a rarity these days.

So this post is directed at some of our fellow members who are constantly saying what a waste of time it is to go to NFTS and that you should study in the US, blah, blah, blah...because NFTS's teachers are not as good as US teachers and we don't learn real filmmaking like the Americans do...blah, blah, blah.

You know who you are!

So let's see.

I just finished a 6 day shoot last month on 16mm. The school gave us over £10,000 (US$18,900@) as a budget. People in US schools have to either 'apply' for the funds or find it themselves or pay for it themselves.

We got given the money. We also got a Steadicam Op; Mike Scott for one scene and I had a Chapman Hybrid Dolly for the whole shoot. We had Barney Clark, who was the lead actor in Roman Polanski's 'Oliver Twist' as our lead actor and Stephen Frears (who directed 'Dangereuses Liaisons' and 'Dirty Pretty things') who used to be the head of teh school, did a cameo. And we had a professional feature film 1st AD (who did some 2nd unit on some James Bond films) as well as a professional Gaffer and a professional Dolly Grip.

We shot on location in a large girl's private school and we also shot in studio. We built a musty public school headmasters office in our studio at the school. So I learnt even more about location lighting as well as studio lighting.

We also had £10,000 of lighting gear (2 x 2.5 K HMIs Arris Suns and 4 x 4K HMIS plus extras) donated by Lee Lighting for a miniscule fee. And all our film and processing, and transferring is at student prices because we are the NFTS.

So my tuition fee this year was £4,100 (US$7,700@) but I got given £4,000 as a maintenance grant so that effectively cancelled out my tuition fee. Last year was the same.

And this year I also got given £2,000 scholarship towards my fees as part of the Freddie Francis Memorial Scholarship Fund (I can also now visit the BSC clubhouse every month on their open day! Alec Mills BSC has become my mentor at the BSC because of my scholarship.)

So effectively I didn't pay any school fees for two years and the school gave my production a decent budget.

In America, it's pay, pay, pay, pay, pay and then maybe you'll work...What are tuition fees like in America? Upwards of $20,000 to $30,000 a year? So which schools really care about their students and which schools are more interested in exploiting them?

At the beginning of of next month, I get a 5 week lighting masterclass (shot on 35mm with equipment donated by Panavision) with Billy Williams BSC, who won an Oscar for 'Ghandi' and who also shot 'Women In Love' and 'On Golden Pond'. I also get taught by Brian Tufano BSC my head of studies, who recently completed a feature at Pinewood and in LA - 'I Could Never Be your Woman' starring Michelle Pfeiffer, directed by Amy Heckerling (who also directed 'Clueless'). He has also shot 'Kidulthood' in video stores at the moment, which was in cinemas this year as well as shot 'Billy Elliot' and 'Trainspotting'. We also get a lighting commercials workshop taught by Stuart Harris a very respected commercials DP, who also happens to shoot videos for Pink Floyd... We are also going to be doing a lighting 'big spaces workshop' for a week. And last year I was taught by Paul Wheeler BSC....

Next year we have our graduation screenings. One of the days is an industry day when we get professional from the industry including production companies and agents to come and meet with us and watch our work. Nothing will probably come of it but you never know.

So obviously...

(please note facetious comment directly aimed at members of this forum who are doubting Tomas's who continue to pessimistically believe an education at the NFTS is a total waste of time as obviously we are not as professional as the US films schools - indeed all our English tutors must obviously be incapabale of shooting a decent film...not like tutors at US film schools. True NFTS is not perfect but film school never is and it's what you make of it and well, I'm doing my best to get the most out of it!)

I really wasted my precious time coming to study here as I obviously I really couldn't have learnt as much as if I had studied in the US where I could have been one amongst a class of dozens, offered the opportunity to pay tens of thousands of dollars as opposed to being one of a class of six actually GIVEN money to study and make films...ON FILM.

Gee, I was such a bad decision to come here to study! Why didn't I bankrupt myself, go to the US to study, pay more money for my grad film, learn much less about oerating and lighting, shoot on HDV and be part of a mass of anonymous students rather than a class of six?..


--------------------
Morgan Peline
Cinematographer
National Film and Television School, UK
www.morganpeline.com
  • 0

#16 Max Jacoby

Max Jacoby
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2955 posts
  • Other

Posted 01 October 2006 - 10:20 AM

The school gave us over £10,000 (US$18,900@) as a budget.

We got given the money. We also got a Steadicam Op; Mike Scott for one scene and I had a Chapman Hybrid Dolly for the whole shoot. We had Barney Clark, who was the lead actor in Roman Polanski's 'Oliver Twist' as our lead actor and Stephen Frears (who directed 'Dangereuses Liaisons' and 'Dirty Pretty things') who used to be the head of teh school, did a cameo. And we had a professional feature film 1st AD (who did some 2nd unit on some James Bond films) as well as a professional Gaffer and a professional Dolly Grip.

We also had £10,000 of lighting gear

And how did the film turn out?
  • 0

#17 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11939 posts
  • Other

Posted 01 October 2006 - 12:07 PM

Hi,

Sounds great.

And when you graduate, and you are not given all these things, you will probably never make another film again, at least not on that level.

It must seem so rosy from that side of the fence.

And what was that about pay, and maybe you'll work?

You're paying here, and you most certainly won't work.

Phil
  • 0

#18 Morgan Peline

Morgan Peline
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 417 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 01 October 2006 - 03:01 PM

And when you graduate, and you are not given all these things, you will probably never make another film again, at least not on that level.
You're paying here, and you most certainly won't work.

Phil


Are you for real?

Like I've always said it might take some time but I will find work eventually. You're always talking about how untalented you are, yet you find work. If you can do it, why can't I?

All of last years graduates are working on and off. One of them shot two five week long low budget features whilst earning £200 a day. So there is work out there, you just have to find it. At least he did all the lighting masterclasses so he knew what to do with his equipment once he found the work.

Sure might take me a bit of time to get to use big equipment again, at least I've played with some. Some people never get teh opportunity to play with anything because they are so defeatist.

Hum, so let's re-cap to see how blatently I'm so terribly wasting my time, money and effort using equipment that I will never, ever, ever use again because I will certainly become a video jockey for the rest of my life shootng corporates on a PD150....But then hey, as I practice lighting at the film school alot, I'm starting to learn how to make miniDV look really good. So hopefully I'll be able produce much nicer images than your typical average video jockey and therefore I will get hired more often...

...So... I'm starting the fifth week of our 5 week lighting master classes tomorrow. We are being taught by Stuart Harris, who is a one of our tutors who shoots many, many top end commercials all over the world, he's worked with Courtney Cox and Salma Hayek on hair commercials and shot Pink Floyd's division bell. He's going to show us how to do beauty lighting.

Last week we spent all week doing pack shots. Brian Tufano my head of studies was also teaching us as before he got into features he used to shoot many, many commercials. Brian used to live in LA for about ten years. Last year Brian shot 'Kidulthood' and also 'I Could Never Be Your Woman' starring Michell Pfeifer. He also shoot 'Billy Elliot', 'Trainspotting' and 'Quadrophenia'.

The week before we did a 'lighting big spaces' workshop where we each took turns lighting a church with 4K HMIs and other smaller lights.

The prior two weeks we did a studio lighting masterclass with Billy Williams who won an Oscar for 'Ghandi', was nominated for an oscar for 'On Golden Pond' and also who shot 'Women In Love'.

All of this has been shot in 35mm on an Arri 353 mainly in Zeiss Superspeeds. We have watched our rushes at the viewing theatre at Deluxe Laboritories. This week, as with last week, we have Primo lenses.

Oh, also by the way, Panavision have also lent us a Genesis for a week to share amongst the six of us, so were doing side by side comparisons of all our pack shots and next weeks glamour photography...

Gee, I really wish I could realise what a waste of time, money and effort studying at the NFTS is.

Yep, I'll probably be saying 'You want fries with that?' at McDonalds but hey at least if I get lucky I'll at least have a notion of what I'm doing regardless of whether it's a redhead and a hi8 camera, or on a bigger camera.

Sure life is hard, blah, blah, blah, but at least I've had the chance to try stuff out and have an idea of what to do with it and also learn how to use some of it with advice from experienced people. Some people never get that opportunity.

You're paying here, and you most certainly won't work.


Beg to differ. I most certainly will work. Why? I might not be the most talented DP out there but I'm certainly very well trained now. That counts for alot and will open doors for me in the long run. I'm going to prove you wrong and then keep coming back to haunt you about what a real waste of time and money the NFTS was. Might take me a few years but just wait and see!

Roger Deakins
Alwin Kuchler
Roman Osin
Richard Greatrex
Davis Tattersall
Sue Gibson
Nina Kellegren
Andrezj Sekula
Lynn Ramsey
Balaz Bolygo

(To name just a few.)


They're working aren't they?
  • 0

#19 Morgan Peline

Morgan Peline
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 417 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 01 October 2006 - 03:15 PM

And how did the film turn out?


Very hard question to answer as the film is not finished yet. Some days I really think it's special and some days I think I should have done it very differently. It's one of those films that people seem to either love or hate. Some tutors think it's the best thing since sliced bread, whereas others feel it's very boring. It's really interesting how certain people are literally diametrically opposed as to how they feel about it.

If I re-shot it, there are many things I would do completely differently. My tutors say that they always feel the same way about their own work. One of Brain Tufano's favourite phrases is: 'You never stop learning'. He's a big believer in keeping your mind open the whole of your life so that your storytelling improves every new film you make. I mean even Billy Williams was saying that he would change certain things in some of the films he's shot -and he's won an Oscar! He said that he felt maybe the camera could have been a little bit more dynamic in 'Ghandi'.

One criticism I have from my tutors is that I didn't make the film as cinematic as I could. So it's something I'm thinking very deeplyabout at the moment. The film is fairly static in places (as it is partly about boredom) with very little tracking. Brian loves his moving camera! (Not necessarily that the criticism was simply about movement)
  • 0

#20 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11939 posts
  • Other

Posted 01 October 2006 - 03:16 PM

Hi,

Obviously you'll be Roger Deakins in no time.

And I think it's worth noting that his success was not found here.

Phil
  • 0


Visual Products

CineTape

Willys Widgets

Abel Cine

Broadcast Solutions Inc

CineLab

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Glidecam

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Opal

The Slider

Metropolis Post

Tai Audio

Aerial Filmworks

Rig Wheels Passport

rebotnix Technologies

Ritter Battery

Technodolly

Wooden Camera

Paralinx LLC

FJS International, LLC

Glidecam

Tai Audio

Opal

rebotnix Technologies

CineTape

Abel Cine

Wooden Camera

Visual Products

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Willys Widgets

Technodolly

Aerial Filmworks

Ritter Battery

Metropolis Post

Paralinx LLC

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Rig Wheels Passport

The Slider

CineLab

Broadcast Solutions Inc

FJS International, LLC