Jump to content


Photo

How important is film school?


  • Please log in to reply
4 replies to this topic

#1 Nick Norton

Nick Norton
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 248 posts
  • Student
  • Chicago

Posted 10 May 2008 - 05:26 PM

Just finishing my second year of a Cinema Studies major at the University of Central Florida, I find myself questioning the entire program.

For one, there is absolutely no hands on classes, and no equipment to rent out.

Also, i am paying nearly $17,000 a year because it is out of state tuition.

With my ambition reaching no further than becoming a cinematographer making enough money to pay the bills, i feel no closer after these two years to reaching my goal.


Are production companies/anyone else that is possibly paying me, looking for a film degree?


any advice would be appreciated-

nicholas



(side note: i am also thinking of transferring to Columbia in Chicago if i can get accepted)
  • 0

#2 Walter Graff

Walter Graff
  • Sustaining Members
  • 1334 posts
  • Other
  • New York City

Posted 10 May 2008 - 06:07 PM

No one is looking for a degree. You will not be a cinematographer when you come out of school. Film school is a good foundation for technique but not life.

That said, if you are getting a education cheap, then it's always worth it. A career usually starts around 24-25 so school is a nice way to find some grounding in yourself, and learn more how to organize your life.


In the real world it will be experience , and who you know that gets you your next job. Do anything you can so you can build a working resume. Get to know as many people as possible so you have opportunities later to network and possibly get more work.

There are many paths ot becoming a cinematographer. You should know that it is a skilled job and one that does not often have openings as a career. There simply isn't enough stuff shot for the all the folks who want to be cinematographers.

A good template for starting out is spending at least eight years or so just trying to find work and find what works for you, and establishing yourself. A PA can become a cinematographer just as an audio guy can, so do as much as you want and in as many areas as you want while you are young. You are not missing out on the boat not being able to call yourself a cinematographer at 25.

How do you become a cinematographer? You will hear all sorts of stories, so don't go on any one story. A lot of life is simply luck. I had a genny operator for years who got a girlfriend that was an agent and overnight he became a pretty popular and in-demand music video and commercial cinematographer. I worked first as a grip, then into the electric side, gaffed for many well known cinematographers (guys who were really better operators) who I made look good as a gaffer and decided to give it a shot as a shooter. I had worked in the business no less than 10 years before anyone really trusted me behind the camera. And it took me at least five years before I really felt one with a camera.

Bottom line is go to school. Yea you want more and you want it now, but you'll be happy you got some foundation. I also strongly suggest you take courses outside of the film work as in business or marketing. Truth is only (as I see it) only about 10% of those that want to enter this field actually have a career in it (more than half of the newbies that visit this site these says will not be in this business in ten years) so you'll be a happier person if you end up in the 90% group when you can say to someone that you studied cinematography in school but also have plenty of knowledge in the real world stuff in case it doesn't go exactly as planned.
  • 0

#3 Mike Washlesky

Mike Washlesky
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 194 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Austin,TX

Posted 10 May 2008 - 07:09 PM

Just finishing my second year of a Cinema Studies major at the University of Central Florida, I find myself questioning the entire program.

For one, there is absolutely no hands on classes, and no equipment to rent out.

Also, i am paying nearly $17,000 a year because it is out of state tuition.

With my ambition reaching no further than becoming a cinematographer making enough money to pay the bills, i feel no closer after these two years to reaching my goal.


Are production companies/anyone else that is possibly paying me, looking for a film degree?


any advice would be appreciated-

nicholas


(side note: i am also thinking of transferring to Columbia in Chicago if i can get accepted)





Take your $17K and make a film. Fastest way to learn it all and by definition is hands-on.

Edited by Mike Washlesky, 10 May 2008 - 07:10 PM.

  • 0

#4 Brian Dzyak

Brian Dzyak
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1517 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Encino, California USA

Posted 10 May 2008 - 08:33 PM

Take your $17 grand and put it into the bank. Or better yet, take it and get an excellent Liberal Arts education. The stories you'll be shooting as a DP will be about "something," and the more you know about history, sociology, political science, art and everything else that ISN'T film will make you a far more valuable and skilled Cameraman than someone who only knows how to put up lights and set an exposure.

Then, practice on your own, read, shadow a working Cameraman or three, etc. Observe a professional Editor to see what he does. Buy inexpensive editing software and shoot ANYTHING and cut it at home. As a Cameraman, you're not just shooting pretty pictures. You're shooting pieces of a story that must cut together. The more you know about how your footage will be used, the better choices you'll be able to make in regard to lighting, lenses, time management, etc.

THEN when you feel as if you have at least a rudimentary grasp over exposing film, lighting (not just illuminating), lenses, and working with a Director, a Gaffer, a Key Grip, and a Camera crew, volunteer your budding talent to shoot a project that somebody ELSE is investing their own $17 grand into. Doing so comes with some amount of responsibility that you at least know the basics so you're not ruining their project. But once you feel like "hey, I can do this," jump in and start working/practicing on projects of other people. While they move on to post, you line up and shoot someone else's project. Then again and again until you begin to get a name and samples of your work. At the same time, you'll be gaining experience, learning what works and what doesn't, trying out new things when the opportunities present themselves, and working with far more budding Producers, Directors, and other crew than you ever would by mounting an entire project on your own. The more people you meet and impress with your skill and incredibly easygoing pleasant personality, the more your name will be out there as that Cameraman everybody wants to work with.

A few student films later, you'll find a music video or indie film that needs a DP and they'll be able to pay you. Likely not a ton of money, but it'll be income. That one project leads you to another and another and another. With any luck, each has a larger budget than the last and you'll be able to convince an agent that the 10% he earns off of you is worth his time to sell you to bigger projects.

There are no guarantees in any of this at all. It really depends on your ability to grow and learn and be patient and tenacious and passionate and enthusiastic and how long you can persevere. You could meet up with the "right" Director within months whose project takes the both of you to a brand new level seemingly overnight. Or that chance meeting/project could take years to find. Or it could never happen at all and you'll languish in low-budget land for a long long time. Really, anything could happen, but it'll be the joy you take from being a Cameraman that should provide the most pleasure from the choice of career. Becoming recognized for your work in credits and money almost has to take a backseat or else you could become a bitter old man if it doesn't happen.

Keep checking in to professional forums like this and also don't ignore news about the professional film industry itself to learn about contracts, unions, studio trends, etc. You're not just becoming a Cameraman. You're creating your own business in which you are the owner who is selling your skills. If you want to make your own movies, then spend your own money on your own project. But if you'd rather become a brilliant DP who works well with others on their projects, start doing that as soon as possible. You're not just becoming a Cameraman. You're creating a life.

Good luck!

Edited by Brian Dzyak, 10 May 2008 - 08:35 PM.

  • 0

#5 Keneu Luca

Keneu Luca
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 440 posts
  • Other

Posted 10 May 2008 - 09:11 PM

If you do a search, you will discover that this topic is perhaps the most discussed, along with "film vs. video".

I myself have taken film classes. But I stopped because I realized that it wasn't giving me want I wanted. And that's really the issue with people who consider film school. The question of what you want.

1. What exactly do you want to do with film?
2. What do you expect from a school?
3. What do you expect once youre finished with school?
4. What do you think a film school will give you that you cannot get otherwise?
5. Are you prepared to meet the school more than halfway - the school will not do the work for you.


One important thing to realize is that not every school is the same, so you must do serious research to see what their structure and focus is.

I may be wrong, but it seems that most schools, from what I've heard, are more about equipment instruction rather than dealing with serious practical script construction and analysis and the process of working with actors.

Of course, there are countless books that explore both the technical aspects as well as the theoretical. I myself have spent much money buying the theory books. Ive found plenty of bad ones, but there some great ones out there. ( I learned more from books than from film school) And as far as operating equipment, well I do that on my own. What's missing from this equation is what film school gives you - a network of people to work with. That is, if your interests and egos can handle it and are compatible.

But then again, as far as networking goes, with websites like craigslist, there are always film shoots looking for people and internships available - all without paying a tuition.
  • 0


Metropolis Post

CineLab

Broadcast Solutions Inc

rebotnix Technologies

Wooden Camera

Opal

Paralinx LLC

Tai Audio

Abel Cine

Visual Products

Willys Widgets

Technodolly

Glidecam

The Slider

Rig Wheels Passport

Ritter Battery

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineTape

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

FJS International, LLC

Aerial Filmworks

Abel Cine

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Paralinx LLC

Ritter Battery

Tai Audio

Wooden Camera

rebotnix Technologies

Rig Wheels Passport

Metropolis Post

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

FJS International, LLC

Technodolly

The Slider

Opal

CineTape

Visual Products

CineLab

Aerial Filmworks

Glidecam

Willys Widgets