Last week I noticed that a lot of my twitter followers are academic film students. I feel a slight tinge of jealousy when people discuss how insightful their film courses have been. I studied film production at university and feel that I got very little knowledge out of it.
My course closed down after the first year I started. The second and third year was a joke, mostly being taught the very basics of filmmaking from unmotivated substitute teachers. The film theory teacher would put a film on, leave the class and come back when it was over. I started to feel a great apathy towards studying and so did the rest of the class. I had a low attendance and left with a 2.2 and little improved knowledge on filmmaking.
What I did get from university was friends. I met like minded people who aspired to work in film. Unfortunately I don’t think any of the graduates of the 2009 film production class actually do work in the film industry anymore. Some of us tried it out for a while like myself but we found ourselves overworked and underpaid.
I have been thinking about re-studying. I don’t know if I will yet but I thought about it and looked up courses online. If I had went to a better class with better teachers would I be better off now? I feel that at 19 years old I was not in the best frame of mind to study anything. All I thought about was my boyfriend, getting drunk and my dream of being a film director was clouded by my extreme ego and overconfidence. During my second year at university I realised that a degree in film was useless and didn’t take it seriously. My grades went from an A in the first year to C by the third. Now at 25 years old I feel that I might have the right mind to take study more seriously.
I looked up how much it was for a masters in film theory and was surprised to find it was relatively cheap costing about £4500 for the full course. This could mean either a full time 12 month study or part time split between 2 years. For some reason I thought a masters degree would cost a lot more. I posted on twitter how I might go for a master in film theory one day. Then I got a comment back that went like this:
BIG MISTAKE, paying for film education is a waste of money and time, don’t be stupid.
Why is it that film education is all round saw as a bad decision? In any other industry you would expect to be fully trained and qualified to be a professional at anything.
Since the DSLR/digital revolution there have been this whole no film school ideology. It seems everyone jumped onto the band wagon that being an indie filmmaker was cool and film school was awaste of time. Many books and websites have been created revolving around this no film school philosophy. The idea of no film school has made some people a lot of money. The makers of DSLRs for instance push the idea of why go to film school when you can teach yourself everything at home for free.
Actually the no film school debate has been going on for perhaps 25 years. I am talking about Robert Rodriquez and Quentin Tarantino who are always quoted as being self educated, self taught geniuses. The no film school philosophy is driven by the success of directors like these guys. But as we all know for every Quentin Tarantino there are hundreds and thousands of self proclaimed directors who have not been able to make an influence within cinema. If you made a list of successful directors educated and uneducated it would probably be split down the middle. Ruling out film school completely as a waste of time would not be very clever.
Once in my college days I ran a terrible film review radio show. I only done the show because I got free tickets from the local cinema. Even after I stopped running the show I would pretend that I was a journalist and claimed free tickets. When I started dating my boyfriend I pretended he was my assistant and got two free tickets – I ran that gig for a year – wow how cocky I was when I was 18 years old!
The highlight of my student radio career was interviewing Richard Attenborough. I wrote down a list of questions but by the time it was my turn to speak with him there was only time for one question. I asked him – what advice would you give to a young aspiring director? The interview went a little like this:
RA – How old are you Amy?
AC – 17
RA – 17! What a sexy age to be at!
AC – ha! (suddenly starstruck and unable to speak)
RA – Well if I could give you one piece of advice I say go to a good film school one of the big ones with a great reputation.
I didn’t follow Mr Attenborough’s advice. I stayed and studied a degree in film at Liverpool. I didn’t have the money to move out of my parents house, and I had friends and a boyfriend in Liverpool. There are two university courses I could have took in Liverpool. But I choose the one I did because A – it was close to home and B- the university looked nice in the photos. As you can see my priorities and frame of mind was so much different. How can you be expected to make a good life decision at 19 years old?
There is no reason why I couldn’t go to film school now. There are reasons I probably won’t A – I don’t like working in groups and I would rather study practical film work in my own time B- money. Because I flunked at my degree and got a mediocre 2.2 I can’t apply for film school funding or scholarships. However I can apply for a masters course if I can show I am dedicated to a future of film work. I believe My CV will be enough for me to get into a masters course on film.
I also believe studying film studies, film theory and the history of film would be useful to my future as a film director. I am not ruling out film school or a master’s degree from my life. I actually think that I am old enough now to do well academically. I haven’t ruled out being a professor of film either. Say if I study a masters and study is enjoyable and goes well for me. When I am in my fifties and sixties maybe I would make a great film teacher. I wouldn’t want to go straight into being a teacher though, I think my 17 year old self would die at the thought. I am supposed to be this super cool director right.
I think anyone giving such black and white advice on film education should not be taken seriously. There is no definite right or wrong route to professional filmmaking. For some people film school will work for them, its is the right environment for them to grow at, the contacts they make there are priceless. For others self taught filmmaking is the way. But to say going to film school is stupid or a big mistake is utter bullshit.
There is no definitive answer to should you go to film school. No one can tell you whether it is the right decision for you other than yourself. If you believe you will benefit from film school then go. In the past there was defiantly the no film school bandwagon, we all jumped on that and from it lots of poor filmmaking practice is being done. To succeed filmmaking must be taken seriously and education can provide filmmakers with the right practice and knowledge of filmmaking etiquette that a filmmaker can not simple learn from buying a dslr and making short films.
what are your thoughts on film school? Would you consider going to film school or have you been already? Is film school a good option for future filmmakers?