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Getting ready to graduate, what next?


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#1 Brian Rose

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Posted 18 September 2005 - 04:16 PM

Hello All,
I am currently an undergrad majoring in History at Truman State University. I enjoy documentary filmmaking (hense history) and now that I will be out soon, I am looking to focus in on filmmaking. I've gotten a lot of experience with video, super 8 and 16mm with equipement that I have bought, and I've read everything I can get my hands on about film and cinematography. Obviously, the thought of film school comes to mind, but the more and more I read about film school, the more I hear that it is expensive, and when you are done, you are left without a job, and lots of student loans to payback. So, I'm thinking it may be better to use my money to actually make films. But, I still really want to learn the ins and outs of cinematography and editing (my two favs). What do you all recommend? Internships? Workshops? Classes? Should I take the plunge and go to film school? Basically, any suggestions would be inifintely appreciated!
Best,
BR
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 18 September 2005 - 06:09 PM

Obviously one can learn filmmaking outside of film school -- I did. By the time I went to film school, I had been making my own films for ten years, so technically there wasn't much to learn in school for me other than sound and some post issues regarding sound.

What I got out of film school was connections with people that led to my first jobs out of school. So my advice is IF you can afford a film school, pick one with some sort of connections with the industry you are interested in. However, since you are more interested in documentaries, you may be better off connecting with other documentary filmmakers, maybe interning, than going to school -- although I hear that Stanford has a good documentary department. At least they did in the 1980's when I was looking into schools...
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#3 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 18 September 2005 - 08:41 PM

brian, here's my quickie little pile of advice based on my limited experience.

if you really are interested in doc work, then you have to understand that the field is pretty polarized into two categories: 1) stuff made for tv which can pay the rent, and 2) everything else, which requires frugal living and is usually self-financed or dependant on grants. cable tv has kinda been a godsend (or corrupter, depending on who you ask) for documentarians, due to the proliferation of infotainment.

i'd suggest you watch some tv (discovery, history channel, etc.). take note of the production companies that made the shows you respect/like the most. these shows are usually acquired by the channels or pre-sold by production companies. research those companies, and try to get your foot in their door doing anything. your history degree might help, depending on their projects. working in that environment, you'll get a firsthand look at how the whole process works, while meeting other doc people who are working on (or hope to work on) other side projects. more than likely you'll have to move to LA or nyc to do this, so there'll be plenty of opportunities to take night classes on cinematography or editing. after submerging yourself like this, you'll be able to get a better feel for what you wanna do specifically as a doc person. and after the working experience you'll be better prepared, whether you wanna focus on self-producing your own non-commercial docs, or keep moving into the tv world. but probably the most beneficial part of the experience will be meeting other talented like-minded people with similar goals.

keep in mind this is based on my limited experiences and stuff i've heard from other people, so it could turn out to be crummy advice.

hope this helps,
jaan
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#4 Morgan Peline

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Posted 19 September 2005 - 04:40 AM

Hi,

I don't know much about this but my first thought would be to grab a camcorder and a shotgun mike, go shoot a 30 min. doco about a favourite topic of yours in as short space of time, say 4 weeks and then go knock on as many doors as possible. Hopefully you will make a good doco which will:

1) Show prospective financiers or employers that you are serious and talented and then lead to your first paid job, if you meet the right people - persistence and luck helps alot.

2) Give you an idea as to what kind documentary filmmaking you want to get into and what that involves.

3) Give people something to look at so that if your work is not quite broadcast standard yet they can either give you work as a 'trainee' of some kind knowing that eventually they can help make you more 'broadcastable' - it also allows people to give you concrete advice on how you can improve your filmmaking.

The more people you contact, the more chance you have of hitting paydirt. It's a numbers game. Meet as many people face-to-face as possible - people remember faces, not resumes or voices on telephones.

but remember...

If you get an internship or whatever without shooting your first film because you lack the confidence or whatever, you might get caught up in the ratrace as a gopher or whatever and not actually shoot anything until years from now because you are too busy making coffee for other people...

'Just do it!'

Well that's my two pence worth!
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#5 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 19 September 2005 - 12:17 PM

also, i forgot to mention current.tv. basically, they're a new cable channel (the one started by al gore) that is aiming to be mostly veiwer-created content, particularly shortform docs. and if they air it you get a little bling, though not much. this is probably the best option i'm aware of for short docs.
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#6 John Thomas

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Posted 19 September 2005 - 02:31 PM

Brian,
I went the film school route. It was good for me because it moved me from Akron, Ohio to New York City. After spending way too much for tuition, I graduated and it was my film school contacts that helped me, not my brand new MFA. I will say that film school helped my confidence level. I learned a lot working on other student's thesis films... let them pay the tab. If school is out of the question, go to a production center and crew crew crew.

Good Luck,

JT
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The Slider

Wooden Camera

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Tai Audio

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Paralinx LLC

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Ritter Battery

Metropolis Post

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