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#1 Matt Dennie

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 04:31 PM

Background: I am currently 19 years old at my local community college. I have started a film club and we are working on a feature length film. Before this I have only made one film in a 48 hour film festival. I enjoy being the DP and I am interested in directing at some point. We are planning on submitting the film we are currently working on to some film festivals. I have been debating the value of film school recently and am leaning towards not going, especially since I have learned a lot in the photography program I was in at my school. It seems that the most important things I would gain from film school are industry connections and experience. I am stuck in Spokane, Washington where the film industry almost doesn't exist.

Questions: Do you think film school is worth it to me given the above circumstances?
How should I go about finding paying jobs?
Have you heard of North by Northwest? Maybe they could help.
I would like to get down to Los Angeles at some point, it seems like there are a lot of jobs down there. Is that true?
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 10:23 PM

Background: I am currently 19 years old at my local community college. I have started a film club and we are working on a feature length film. Before this I have only made one film in a 48 hour film festival. I enjoy being the DP and I am interested in directing at some point. We are planning on submitting the film we are currently working on to some film festivals. I have been debating the value of film school recently and am leaning towards not going, especially since I have learned a lot in the photography program I was in at my school. It seems that the most important things I would gain from film school are industry connections and experience. I am stuck in Spokane, Washington where the film industry almost doesn't exist.

Questions:


Do you think film school is worth it to me given the above circumstances?

First, I suggest you read this http://realfilmcaree...hp?topic=1834.0 regarding "film school."

That said, it's important to keep in mind what "film school" is really about. It's about the school giving YOU an education that you can't receive on your own. There is more to a higher education at a University than simply gaining nuts & bolts skills for a trade, like cinematography. You absolutely can learn all you really need to know to get started in a career from books, the internet, instructional videos, and practical experience on sets, but there is more to the job than merely knowing how to light a set and shoot scenes with a camera.

For starters, a DP must have excellent communication and "people" skills. While you might already be a great person, there are interpersonal communication classes at many schools that will help you hone those talents so you are able to communicate your ideas and wishes more effectively. Many courses require intense collaboration with classmates and that is an essential skill when working in the film industry. Taking a variety of courses requires that you develop time management skills as your juggle time and other resources, like money, to complete your goals.

Apart from those general benefits, you can also become a better Cameraman if you have a broad base of knowledge regarding general history and art. Studying artists like Rembrandt or Degas and the various styles throughout history can give you new perspectives on how you might choose to light a set and frame shots. Knowing the historical background that a script may present can help you choose a style that fits a specific story.

Too many film students choose to hyper-focus on "film studies" which typically means MOSTLY studying other movies to the point where their own work becomes derivative of all that has come before. While the technical skills required of a Cameraman are obviously important to know (lighting, cameras), the actual CAREER requires so much more and a full University education can help you achieve it. There are of course no guarantees at all, but you can do things to improve your odds and getting a higher education is just one of those things that can help you get where you'd like to be quicker and more successfully.



How should I go about finding paying jobs?


There's a lot more to the answer of that question than can be expressed here, so I'm going to shamelessly refer you to the Camera Department section of my book (link below) and to chapters one through five.

In general, though, a viable career comes about because of A) who you know, B ) who knows you, and C) who knows you and that they know what you are capable of. The bottom line is that you need to have something to show that you can do the work before anyone agrees to pay you to do their job. And knowing what to do isn't always enough. Potential employers also respond remarkably well to people with great personalities. Production days can be quite long and full movies can last months. It is imperative that people get along with one another through those long hauls in difficult environments. Being a nice person and being easy to collaborate with will go a very long way.


Have you heard of North by Northwest? Maybe they could help.

Are you referring to this? http://www.nxnw.net/...?page_id=26&x=2

Really, ANY production experience you can get is beneficial. But don't think about it as how they can help you, even if that is what you intend. You have to approach THEM with the attitude that you're there to help them with your talent and skill. Sure, you could go to them now and tell them that you want to be a Cameraman one day and they MIGHT give you the opportunity to .... do anything BUT shoot for them. OR you could do some short films for a little while, build a reel and get real experience, AND THEN approach them with the offer to shoot their projects. Again there are no guarantees and there are multiple roads you can take, none any more sure than the rest, so the answer really depends on who you are, what you want to achieve, when you'd like to achieve it, and what your specific circumstances are.



I would like to get down to Los Angeles at some point, it seems like there are a lot of jobs down there. Is that true?


Many of the major projects are "keyed" out of Los Angeles, meaning that the Department Keys/Heads are hired from the LA pool and those Department Heads then hire the crew who will work with/under them. Living in LA to meet those people definitely helps.

If you wish to begin as a DP, however (as opposed to working your way up through the ranks), then it's more important that you live wherever you have to to give you access to projects that you can shoot for your reel and resume. As you'll start on small indie or student projects, it's not imperative that you live in LA at first. After you've built up a reputation and a reel of quality work, you'll want to pitch yourself to work on more substantial projects. When that happens, getting an Agent to represent and push you toward bigger studio projects will become necessary. One of the common ways for a young DP to become "successful" seems to be hooking up with an up-and-coming Director and hoping that those films will somehow get attention. There are many talented DPs who never developed viable careers merely because they weren't lucky enough to meet and work with the right Director who was able to propel their career to new levels. Some of this is talent and skill while the undeniable truth is that some of it is just dumb luck. So, you improve your odds in the areas that you do have control over, like education, and do your best to overcome the luck thing by keeping at it. This can be achieved by keeping your financial overhead low. So much of this business is just being able to keep going, no matter how little money is coming in.
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#3 Jon Amerikaner

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 01:52 AM

Questions: Do you think film school is worth it to me given the above circumstances?
You need experience and connections. Film school is a proven way to get this. However because of the price of school today you have to be creative. You need scholarships and grants. Or do something totally radical and learn in a foreign country where prices are lower and where it might be easier to find work because the market is not over saturated

How should I go about finding paying jobs?
As soon as you know tell me. We all start somewhere. If you are talented you will find work and work will find you. But do us all a favor, don't work for free unless everyone on the team is. Amateurs are making it harder and harder for pros to find good paying jobs.

I would like to get down to Los Angeles at some point, it seems like there are a lot of jobs down there. Is that true?
Yes and there are a lot of people, more people than jobs. More talented people than jobs.

If this what you love, and you can't do anything else than do whatever you can to make it happen. However if you can contribute anything else to make this world even a little better, than do that. You can always come back to filmmaking. We need more filmmakers with life experience and real stories to tell instead of just regurgitating what's been done before.
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#4 jaysonwilko

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 11:15 AM

The best thing about film school for me was the gear availability. I was able to work with a lot of gear that otherwise I wouldve had to rent. And at the end of it I had a degree. So it worked out well in that respect. Also you have a built in support system and access to info. As far as working...get info from the state film office. I'm sure they have resources to help you find employment.
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#5 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 04:55 PM

Questions: Do you think film school is worth it to me given the above circumstances?
You need experience and connections. Film school is a proven way to get this.



It is? Based on what? The statistics would show that far more people who attend film school do NOT achieve their goals than those who do. If film school was a proven avenue to success, then we'd have thousands of working Directors, Producers, and Writers who earn millions a year instead of just the hundred or so who do.

No?
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#6 Jon Amerikaner

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 12:19 AM

It is? Based on what? The statistics would show that far more people who attend film school do NOT achieve their goals than those who do. If film school was a proven avenue to success, then we'd have thousands of working Directors, Producers, and Writers who earn millions a year instead of just the hundred or so who do.

No?


Let me clarify. In film school you are given a chance to earn experience. A class is experience. A short film is experience.

In film school you are given a chance to make connections. A friend is a connection. A teacher is a connection.

What you do with those experiences and connections are up to you. And there are certainly other ways to achieve those same experiences and connections today.

I never meant to imply that any set of experiences or connections, wherever they come from, are a proven method of success. Nothing is 100%

Film school, like anything, is not a formula for success.
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#7 Jack Epner

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 08:21 PM

Hey Matt,

I'm actually in a unique position here to offer some more solid advice than most, being I started in the Seattle market, and have recently moved to L.A. And I know people in Spokane. SO, that being said, here are my thoughts.

- You most certainly do NOT need film school. Yes, if you went to USC or AFI in L.A., you may make some good connections, but getting into those programs is tough, and everyone I've worked with that has come out of those schools isn't anywhere ahead of the game.

- North by Northwest could be a good utility if you remain in Spokane. The two people I know out there are affiliated with them.

- Seattle has a decent market, though it may be tough to pay all the bills for a while, and even once you've networked sufficiently, it can be tough, for simple lack of opportunities. Knowing a lot of the DPs in the area, I can tell you talent isn't of the highest caliber in many cases, and there isn't a TON of competition (not like L.A.), but the guys that tend to get the most work own their own gear, so you're up against people that OWN REDs, and sliders and all that other stuff who already have a "clientelle" of sorts. Seattle is odd in that there is less competition, but networking is more important to be "in" on the jobs.

- L.A. has TONS of stuff going on, but just realize, it is harder to find LEGIT work around here when getting started. Craigslist and call boards work well enough in Seattle to get going, but in L.A., you generally find less than desirable jobs on there - though it can be used to network. Mandy.com is far more helpful in L.A., but that will require a bit of experience, and being how important the role of the DP is, you're going to be up against a few obstacles to get rolling down here. My advice is if you come to L.A., plan on doing some AC work for a while.

The other general advice is to do all you can to build an amazing reel. That will help you A LOT. Create a personal website and post the reel so you can direct people there.

Good luck, man!
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#8 Zachary J Esters

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 08:39 AM

Hi Jon!

Well, no, you don't necessarily NEED to go to film school to become a filmmaker. However, all of the questions you're asking, generally people come out of film school knowing all of those answers, and much more.

I'd say that if it's resonating with you to not go to film school, then just don't go, until you get a "gut feeling" to go. The last thing you want to do is pay for something you feel you don't need. Those are usually the students that don't pay attention in class, are distracted by social networking sites on their laptops, and/or rather slack off in their spare time and play video games instead of shooting a short film or commercial with classmates outside of school.

Simply put: If you go to film school, you need to be 110% motivated to go and learn something. If you DON'T go to film school, you need to be 110% motivated to make a film career on your own without it. That means purchasing educational/informative filmmaking books to read in your spare time, practicing your craft (as a DP) and reading up on cinematography books, and most of all, improving-- in EVERYTHING.

You don't need a Mechanical Engineering degree to fix a car, but you still have to learn how to fix that thing yourself from somewhere. School is just a faster way of learning a general amount of information and knowledge that would otherwise take much longer for you to learn on your own in that same amount of time, that's all.


Hope this helps!


Zachary J. Esters
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#9 Nicolas Gomez

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 09:40 AM

i never actually went to film school... im a recording artist turned cinematographer... works great! just be passionate about it! :)
www.elsotano.com.co/videos.php
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