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Is There Any Truth to The Rumor I Just Heard That USC Is No Longer Teaching Filmmaking in It's "Film" Program?


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#1 K Borowski

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 03:47 PM

I just heard this rumor, and if this is the case, they are jumping the gun way too early. What kind of "film" school, would drop a medium that is over 80% of major theatrical releases and still around 40% of dramatic television production?
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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 04:21 PM

Interesting, let's confirm the rumour first and then we can all dive in :D

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#3 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 04:30 PM

Well, let's at least be honest about the whole topic regardless of the medium it's taught in. The fact is that most so-called "filmschools" shouldn't be called that at all. Instead, they should be called "story telling schools."

The point is that the medium, whether it's film or video or claymation, is irrelevant. What IS most important to the technicians and to the business people is the STORY that is being told. THAT is the "art" AND the element that brings in revenue.

So, who truly give's a crap about whether an image is captured on film or electronically or in some other medium? A true "Cameraman" will learn the art and craft of whatever medium he/she is asked to capture the story in. Film isn't what makes a movie a movie. The story is and only a true Cameraman will be willing to learn the medium that is necessary to tell it.



As far as using the term "filmmaking" to refer to the process of making movies with media other than film, well, that's a whole other discussion. :)
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#4 K Borowski

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 04:37 PM

Well, calling your program a "film" program, in the current time period, where most movies are not only shot, but distributed on 35mm film, is a huge disservice to students and is borderline false advertising. There are plenty of schools with digital multimedia degrees, most of them associates, but they are out there.

I don't think something being shot on film makes it special, but I think a program that doesn't prepare its students for what is out there in the real world, isn't really a "film program."

What's poor Jimmy going to do getting out of school with $50,000 in debt not knowing how to load a camera or use a light meter?


Richard, I couldn 't confirm the rumor, though I tried. It came from a film commission, though.

Edited by K Borowski, 12 November 2010 - 04:38 PM.

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#5 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 05:43 PM

Well, most "film schools" are guilty of false advertising and have been for quite some time. :)


Please read this for a better insight into what I was trying to impart: http://johnaugust.co...edia-mcgyverism
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#6 K Borowski

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 06:19 PM

Well, most "film schools" are guilty of false advertising and have been for quite some time. :)


Please read this for a better insight into what I was trying to impart: http://johnaugust.co...edia-mcgyverism


Hey, Brian. This time we are in PERFECT AGREEMENT :D

Surely, you agree though that a handy working knowledge of working with ECN films is going to be important in the camera department for the next decade, at least, though. . .
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#7 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 06:28 PM

"What's poor Jimmy going to do getting out of school with $50,000 in debt not knowing how to load a camera or use a light meter?

Richard, I couldn 't confirm the rumor, though I tried. It came from a film commission, though"

I suspect it's true. A year or two ago I was speaking to a a prof who teaches there. One interesting story: one or two sets of new Christie film projectors were delivered for the theater in the new Lucas building and they were returned. The facility was to be all digital as per Mr. Lucas' donation conditions.

A few months before that I met USC's film camera service person, a lonely guy. A few scattered Arri S and K3's that no one used. I'm sure he's gone now. If students wanted a film camera they would rent a modern well maintained one from a reputable rental house.

You can get your degree without having anything to do with actual film; that has been the case there for some time. Of course you can shoot film. They shoot anything they want-- RED, 35mm, whatever. They rent Chapman cranes, truckloads of G&E, Panavision, book orchestral scoring sessions at Paramount, you name it. I know a DP who made pretty good money shooting their student films. They have real budgets! Why learn how to load a mag and use a light meter? Hire an expert who knows how!

$50,000 in debt? I guess that would be true... if you started with $150,000 in cash. Estimated annual cost of attendance: $50,000-- a USC undergrad degree is $200,000 today. I think the grad program is 2 years (maybe 3?), so $100 to $150k.

Lousy neighborhood, lovely grounds though. I hear the campus annual flower budget is over 100k.
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#8 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 06:46 PM

Surely, you agree though that a handy working knowledge of working with ECN films is going to be important in the camera department for the next decade, at least, though. . .


But Karl, they don't work in below-the-line departments like camera! They're writers, directors, producers, composers. :)

Brian, I recently took some refresher classes in the film department of my local community college. No false advertising there. The first meeting of the cinematography class started with the professor asking us what we thought we were doing, as "none of you sitting before me will likely work in the industry." He suggested anyone interested in having an actual paid job after graduation transfer to the local culinary school, where graduates had a 100% job placement rate! They can't say that at USC, not after sucking down $200k...

Though in fact, the local community college film school grads went on to many positions in the industry, both above and below the line.
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#9 Richard Boddington

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 07:22 PM

I very clearly said we needed to confirm the rumor before you guys dove in, clearly none of you listen to me on here. :)

In any event the proliferation of video at "film" schools can only have a negative effect as new generations of "film" makers never acquire the discipline that goes along with shooting film.

It also means that new graduates from these "film" schools will be barred from sets like mine where I only shoot film. As I don't want people on set that are not trained in FILM, I could care less how much video experience they have.

R,
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#10 John Sprung

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 08:13 PM

... book orchestral scoring sessions at Paramount, ....


Alas, not any more. The Crosby Building, which contained the scoring stage, was torn down about 2-3 years ago.




-- J.S.
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#11 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 09:02 PM

The last time I checked, a camera is merely a box with a hole in it that allows light in to capture an image on SOMETHING. Everything else is just bonus features to help make the process "better."

The art of "cinematography" has less to do with any specific medium and more to do with the Cameraman knowing how to use WHATEVER image acquisition medium is chosen. Whether one captures the images on film stock or electronically, he/she still also needs to understand how to light a set (and people) within the parameters of the chosen medium AND know how to manage the logistics of a budget and the crew. There is nothing particularly more difficult about shooting film than "video." Arguably, because film (at present) tends to have a wider latitude, it is EASIER to shoot film than "video" because exposure ratios don't have to be as carefully maintained than one would have to watch in the electronic realm due to the inherent limitations of that medium.

So, while traditionalists will stubbornly hold on to the idea that film is inherently better in every way than any type of electronic acquisition, the reality is that what truly matters is that the story is being told with the most appropriate tools available within the parameters of aesthetic and budget for any particular project.
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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 09:43 PM

So, while traditionalists will stubbornly hold on to the idea that film is inherently better in every way than any type of electronic acquisition, the reality is that what truly matters is that the story is being told with the most appropriate tools available within the parameters of aesthetic and budget for any particular project.


I could not disagree more...the bottom line is that video is ugly and film is beautiful. People typically shoot video when there is no budget for film, or really no "perceived" budget for film.

I have yet to see a thread on this forum entitled, "how can I make my film look like video." We do have about 50 threads entitled, "how do I make my video look like film." The reason is because every one aspires to shoot film, who aspires to shoot video?

Every shoot I plan I get a pitch for some new video system, now I shoot them down with even greater ferocity and impatience than ever before.

The only value I see for video is weddings, news, & reality TV.

R,
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#13 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 12:09 AM

.the bottom line is that video is ugly and film is beautiful.



Well, that's a subjective opinion, isn't it. :) If only there were some empirical test to prove beauty, but I'd have to wonder how many filmstocks would be "proven" to be unworthy of use because they're not as empirically beautiful as others. ;)
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#14 David Carstens

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 12:43 AM

There is a reason the entire department changed its name from "School of Cinema-Television" to "School of Cinematic Arts". From what I've gathered from students currently in the program, intermediate and advanced class projects that used to be shot on 16mm (Arri-S and SRIIs) are now shot on Sony EX3s, sometimes with Letus adapters. Earl Rath's advanced cinematography class is still 35mm on a Panavision GII, thankfully, so the students who specifically want to study camera still have some access to film.

Edited by David Carstens, 13 November 2010 - 12:44 AM.

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#15 Richard Boddington

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 01:09 AM

Well, that's a subjective opinion, isn't it. :) If only there were some empirical test to prove beauty, but I'd have to wonder how many filmstocks would be "proven" to be unworthy of use because they're not as empirically beautiful as others. ;)


It is entirely subjective, that is for sure.

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#16 John Sprung

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 03:42 AM

Arguably, because film (at present) tends to have a wider latitude, it is EASIER to shoot film than "video" because exposure ratios don't have to be as carefully maintained than one would have to watch in the electronic realm due to the inherent limitations of that medium.


The generation of cameras that's just coming on line -- Arri Alexa, Sony 9000PL, perhaps the upgraded Red -- has enough dynamic range to substantially reduce the significance of this issue. We have an Alexa show on which they routinely blow out windows in post, even though the camera holds exterior detail. If you're throwing away dynamic range like that, it means you have more than enough.




-- J.S.
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#17 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 10:00 AM

The generation of cameras that's just coming on line -- Arri Alexa, Sony 9000PL, perhaps the upgraded Red -- has enough dynamic range to substantially reduce the significance of this issue. We have an Alexa show on which they routinely blow out windows in post, even though the camera holds exterior detail. If you're throwing away dynamic range like that, it means you have more than enough.




-- J.S.


I concur. Which only supports the idea that electronic acquisition isn't any more or less valid as a way to learn than film would be. For my money, what matters MORE would be having a camera and lens package that allows one to manually control EVERY aspect of photography just the way someone using film would. ALSO, it would be important to have tools that at least come close to the type that one will be using in the professional realm. What I mean by that is that while something like an EX3 might provide an "acceptable" picture for a student project, the ergonomics of using such a camera isn't necessarily emulating the "professional experience" that students SHOULD BE getting as they are supposed to be learning what to do after they leave the school environment. It's one thing to get a decent picture, but it's another to obtain it within the "working style" that is expected in the working world. While using something like a Sony F900 (or the like) isn't the same as using an Arri SR, it can come closer to the experience (with the normal package of AC accessories and operator amenities) than something like the EX can.


Anyway, the point of all of this is that there is more to learning or doing "cinematography" than having the "right" camera. It's about lighting and lens choice and knowing how to construct a scene out of many shots. It's about knowing the variety of tools available to mount and move the camera. It's about knowing the tools that make using the camera easier for the Operator and the Assistants. And those things are what a quality school should be focusing on more than being concerned over which box-with-a-hole-in-it the students are using. If a school does that, then professionals like Richard can hire them with a little more confidence even if the school environment hasn't let them run film through a gate. :)
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#18 Richard Boddington

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 11:30 AM

The generation of cameras that's just coming on line -- Arri Alexa, Sony 9000PL, perhaps the upgraded Red -- has enough dynamic range to substantially reduce the significance of this issue. We have an Alexa show on which they routinely blow out windows in post, even though the camera holds exterior detail. If you're throwing away dynamic range like that, it means you have more than enough.
-- J.S.


Will any of these cameras allow me to flip a switch on set and get to 150 fps? How about ramping can they do that? How about going into time lapse or single frame mode?

Brian, one of my main objections to having the hoards of video school grads on set is that they don't have an understanding of the costs involved with shooting film. They've never done it so they don't realize the level of care needed to set up some thing being shot on film. They come from the world of.....it's only video tape, and video tape is dirt cheap, if we screw it up we'll just do it again no big deal.

It's an attitude that the new generation of "film" school grads has been brought up with, they just don't get it.

R,
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#19 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 12:38 PM

Brian, one of my main objections to having the hoards of video school grads on set is that they don't have an understanding of the costs involved with shooting film. They've never done it so they don't realize the level of care needed to set up some thing being shot on film. They come from the world of.....it's only video tape, and video tape is dirt cheap, if we screw it up we'll just do it again no big deal.


Richard, while I agree 100% with you on the lack of discipline shown by some people who've never used film (and I'm really grateful to have been trained on film sets by people who've shot film for most of their careers), at the same time I can't honestly say I've seen strong discipline shown by all people who've been trained on film.

In my very humble opinion discipline doesn't come from film as a medium per se, it's rather a by-product of the procedures needed to use that medium at its best (and of course saving money). I've met some amazingly disciplined and professional people who've never shot on film, and some amazingly lazy unprofessional jerks who've shot 35mm film all their lives.

Frankly, if I were a cinematographer or producer and realized that some people on my shoot were lacking that "discipline" and were not respectful of the tools they were using, hence causing huge delays and doing a sloppy job, I would go find someone else. Personally, I try to bring my "discipline" on whatever job they call me on and whatever technology the cinematographer chooses, and I think that's part of being "professional" and doing a good job, regardless of the medium you were trained on.

just my 2€c... :-)
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#20 Richard Boddington

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 01:05 PM

Your two Euro cents are worth a lot in the USA :)

I may institute a new policy...all film workers to be hired on my sets born after 1990 must present to me an acceptable short film shot and edited entirely on Super 8 before I will consider hiring them.

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