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Student stuck at Pitt


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#1 Bhavin Amin

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 01:25 AM

Hey everyone,

My name's Bhavin and I'm pretty new to these forums. Anyway, I have a pretty weird dilemma and am wondering if anyone has any advice from experience. Main question is - is it too late to start?


I was undecided for my major until sophomore year at the University of Pittsburgh - which isn't really huge on its film program. Their courses are more analysis courses, however, they let us take one production course per semester at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

I've taken basic film production courses and have shot only five shorts on DV and 16mm. This upcoming semester, I've finally completed all the prerequisite courses to take a lighting course.

I feel I haven't completed enough production courses/shot enough films to ready myself for a grad school (AFI, NYU). In comparison to students that attend actual film schools, I feel I won't have enough experience or education to show those grad schools I'm serious about pursuing a career in cinematography.

Do you guys have any advice on what I can start doing to ready myself for these schools? As of now I'm contemplating on graduating early this April and finding an actual film school to attend. Is there anything else I can do? I really appreciate any help I can get. Thanks :)
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#2 Nick Mulder

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 02:40 AM

I suggest you just get out there and start shooting ...

Of all the university courses I've done most of them I've blagged my way into by talking to the course coodinator, once they get a chance to see how passionate you are all the pre-reqs can be signed off...

That being said, it could be said its the same in finding work - maybe its different in the States but an education might help but is certainly no prerequisite here in New Zealand ...

good luck!

nick
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#3 Bhavin Amin

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 03:16 PM

Thanks for the reply Nick.

However, I already tried talking to my advisor - trying to pick up more than one production course per semester. She wouldn't allow it.

I am more concerned about what I should do after this semester. Does a film school truly prepare you for grad school more than a university that features a film program? Or do the two schools teach enough for grad school? Where do the core techniques of cinematography come from - undergrad or grad?

I'm aware the best way to learn is to go out there and start shooting - and that is what I've picked up since I've learned about Pitt's awful program. But I do need a guide/mentor and other students who are also passionate about film production more than film analysis. Can a film school provide me with this? Or is that the grad school's job?
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#4 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 05:33 PM

As far as being able to get out there and shoot after school, I think you'll be ok. I mean, I hardly took any film classes when I was at school- I majored in sound design with a minor in animation and kinda picked up film on the side. You should enjoy your education for what it is and do what you can with the connections you have. You never know what will develop. I wouldn't worry about grad school. Just see what you can learn in the meantime. One of the things I kinda regret about my last year of school is that I got sort of antsy and impatient about just finishing and getting the $%@ out of there, and it made it harder to truly enjoy myself and to focus on my last few classes. As much as a good college should prepare you for some sort of career, or at least give you a vague direction as to what you want for yourself after school, it should also be a place to learn all sorts of things that you might not get a chance to learn in the "real world".
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#5 Jon Kukla

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 06:18 PM

If the school isn't giving you what you feel you need, don't feel compelled to find it on-campus. I would say in fact that if you are able to find or organize your own work on off-campus projects - even if they are mostly freebies - the grad schools may look highly on that as evidence of your own initiative and drive to improve your skills.

I had a somewhat related problem when I was already at film school - we had a great program, but unfortunately who did what was entirely decided by the students, which led to a lot of paranoia, politics, and back-stabbing. Eventually, I got sick of it, so I wound up spending most of my free time hanging around equipment companies and meeting the pros instead. Working in the "real world" helped me focus on what was important - skills, knowledge, set etiquette, personal relationships - and helped lower my stress level by not being as hung up on what happened at school. Also, while everyone else fought over who would get to DP or operate, I just quietly took most of the AC jobs on a LOT of the student films. Having the pro experience made me a better AC, and people appreciated that, which led to more work, including DP gigs.

The important thing to remember is that you do have some control over your experience level. You shouldn't have to rely on any one person, company, or institution - that's the whole point of networking.
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#6 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 07:55 PM

Hey Bhavin,

Have you looked into any of the local film communities or non profits? A quick google search took me to this organization: http://www.pghfilmmakers.org/

They seem to have a good selection of production workshops and courses that perhaps could give you an advantage if you plan on applying for grad school. Not to mention organizations such as this are great for networking and finding work in the area.
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#7 Bhavin Amin

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Posted 01 January 2007 - 02:12 AM

Jonathan, I currently am taking courses at Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Pitt covers the tuition of one course per semester at Pittsburgh Filmmakers. I'm going to try to take more by pushing my advisor to sign me up. :)

Thank you everyone for your replies. I'll def try to take as many courses I can at Pittsburgh Filmmakers - but more important, I learned what is most important is to shoot as much as I can and learn from it. This not only means to shoot my own projects, but to try to get on other local projects as well, whether its a professional or a student project.

Thank you very much, you've inspired me to get out there. :)
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#8 Morgan Peline

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Posted 01 January 2007 - 08:18 PM

Hi,

My opinion is that you should work as a camera trainee (or intern as I think you call it in the US) to see how the pros do it and also earn a bit of money as an AC (eventually) and then shoot as much as possible as a DP on the side.

My point of view with regards to undergrad films schools is most of them are a waste of time - you might as well buy yourself a camera and editing system and do it yourself with the money you would have spent. Working on student films might help but to be frank most student DPs who shoot student films aren't that proficient and copying their techniques might just teach you bad habits as these DPs are still finding their way and don't really know what they are doing.

I used to help out on a load of student films and to be frank most student DPs shoot in the most inefficient manner because they have never seen how the pros do it.

Also read and watch a lot!
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