1 (edited by Thomas 2012-04-02 12:43 PM)

Topic: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

Hey there FFers, I'm sure most of you don't remember me with the exception of a few. It's been 2 Years since my last interaction with the FF community. Anyways, I wanted to get a topic started that would address a growing concern amongst college-age students interested in Film. The question is- Should one choose an education vs being self-taught?

I'll weigh in with my own ideas first but I REALLY would like to see what the opinions of the masses are (especially from those of you with your feet already firmly on the video-industry ground)

Film school has its obvious benefits: Proffesional Instruction, Liability-free (mostly) equipment use, and most importantly- Connections to other filmmakers and relevant people/resources.
Meanwhile, DIY film education is cheaper (MUCH cheaper) but lacks the dedicated teacher, the plethora of film students that live within a half-mile, and of course if you break it- you already bought it (which isnt too big of a deal what with warranties- but you can't try out a variety of equipment and methods quite as readily as in a film school). DIY film education does allow for a more personalized and focused experience (in my opinion) you buy the books, read the articles, and YOU pick the assignments and grade yourself. I might also add that since cameras (like DSLR for example) and overall equipment costs are becoming more affordable for the average 18-20 year-old.

I just wanted to throw some info out there and hear back from other people, as I'm now 2 years into an associates degree at a community college and as soon as this semester is over I'm going with option 2 (DIY film education). I have 8 grand saved up and I'm going to put it towards a DSLR camera (another thread to come about this later) and a new editing computer (possibly a thread to come from this later).

Its great to be back!

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

Before I say anything, I would like to state for the record that I am all for higher education. If going to college and obtaining a degree in your chosen field is something you really want to do, regardless of what that field might be, then by all means do it.

Okay. Now that I have that out of the way I will go into my film school rant. Just as you already stated, there are many advantages and disadvantages to both routes. Personally, I never went to film school so I can't really speak from experience. Everything I know about film I learned either by watching other movies, reading books, speaking to like-minded individuals (like those here on Film Fights) and from hands on experience.

Honestly, there is a technical side of filmmaking that I firmly believe a college degree could be put to good use. In other words, it depends on what aspect of filmmaking a person chooses to go to school for. A good producer could definitely benefit from taking a few -- or several -- business related courses and a study of media law wouldn't be such a bad idea. But when it comes to, say, the director or the actors... Well, filmmaking requires talent. Real talent. While film school might be able to help students understand the technical aspects of the craft, I firmly believe that writing, directing and acting go deeper than anything you could learn in school. I'm not saying a would-be director CAN'T learn anything from film school. Like I said, there is a lot of technical aspects that higher education can teach. School can teach an artist theory, it can show them the right way to hold a camera and what the difference between a crane and a dolly are, but at the end of the day whether or not a film is good or great is all determined by the talent of the people involved. Their ability to perceive what makes for good dramatic story telling. This isn't something that can be taught by a professor. It requires something more. Something personal. The only way to truly understand what is to simply make movies. And then keep making movies and pray that you get better with each one.

A good filmmaker needs to have a desire to do better. To learn from their mistakes. A school can TEACH a director that getting proper coverage is important and, perhaps, how much coverage they should aim to get. But a director doesn't actually LEARN how important it is until that first time they make a movie, get all the way to the editing room and suddenly realize that they missed something and now the shot is essentially ruined without a re-shoot. (On a related note, this happened to me a LOT when we were first started making films of our own. But I guarantee you I've got a lot better about it because of that experience.)

Plain and simple; artists paint. Good artists paint. Great artists paint. If they aren't painting then they aren't artists. They're just people who like art. Filmmaker make movies. Good filmmakers make movies. Great filmmakers make movies. If you're not making films then you're really not a filmmaker. You're a movie fan. If someone really wants to be a filmmaker then make movies. It's that simple. No one is good at it at first, but if you have even a shred of talent it will show and it will grow.

I believe every would-be filmmaker should go through a guerrilla filmmaking phase. Not just one or two short films. I mean seriously try to make it on their own. Spend a couple years making your movies with no preconceived notion of what do. Go off instinct and personal study. Then, if their heart still feels like film school has something great to offer them, then by all means head in that direction.

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I'll weigh in my two cents, as I did study filmmaking at a higher education level, however it wasn't a film school, it was at art school, so obviously there will be some differences that might not ring true when it comes to 'film school'.

The course 'Photographic and Electronic Media' only came about towards the end of my first general year and as I'd always been interested in film and none of the other courses had interested me I signed up.

I will say that there was a heavy emphasis on the 'idea' behind everything and often times the actual finished product wasn't perfect but it was enough to show how the idea had progressed from birth to actual realisation. However, for someone like me, who wanted to make actual honest to goodness 'movies', I found it quite limiting, until my tutors gave me some great advice that I've always followed since. They told me that nobody was stopping me from making the movies I wanted to make, and if I made it and it sucked...well I could always make it again.

In terms of what it was I actually gained from the formal education. Well I naturally was given access to all the tools I could ever need to make any film I wanted. This included cameras, mics, lighting kits, editing software etc. I was also afforded training with the kit that meant that I wasn't going in completely blind, and that I could actually create something with all this equipment that otherwise would have stumped me.

In terms of projects, when it came to 4th year our entire year was self sufficient, in that we made our own briefs, and there was minimal guidance from staff. Up until that point the projects beforehand had all been very loose and open to interpretation in a million different ways, so it allowed you to be completely free with your ideas and try your hand at a lot of different techniques and ideas that might help you in the future.

In all honesty, it was only after I left university I actually started making regular films, and became highly experienced with both my camera and editing software, (both the same ones I'd been using at art school). But I know that I needed art school to get me introduced to the kit, to give me the technical advice and tips that I would need and then expand upon after leaving. In essence it allowed me to walk before I could run.

I actually wish I'd made better use of the time and equipment I had available to me then, but if it weren't for that course, then I doubt I would be making movies now, and that's the main thing.

Anyway, I just thought I'd say my bit. Hopefully it wasn't 'too' boring.

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Film school, and most college in general, is ridiculously expensive. The next big "bubble" that's going to smack our country in the face is the student loan debt bubble. I think a reason a lot of people lose freedom so early, and are forced to find traditional employment, is by loading up on massive amounts of crushing debt that they're unable to pay for decades, and they aren't allowed the freedom to minimize expenses while maximizing creative freedom.

I'm quite glad I never went the 'expensive' college route, though I did go to school for Multimedia Design for a year and a half (before getting kicked out for bad grades, ha!).

So, the debt thing is what I worry more about than the actual education. Yes -- film school is a great place to meet collaborators, but so is in the internet! Yes, film school is a great place to learn new gear and that kind of thing, but lots of people have gear you can also learn on.

Having just come out to Los Angeles 2 months ago, I'm kicking myself for not making this move earlier - quite happy with my life path in general, but if I was going to reboot it and do it all over again, I would have gone right from Wisconsin to LA and started making friends and helping out on stuff here.

We're reaching a whole new era now -- an era where YouTubers are making $100,000 a month, buying up awesome gear, funding super cool projects, and bringing their friends on to help while bypassing the traditional Hollywood meat-grinder ... a part of that grinder being the film school system.

It's time to overthrow that system, and rebuild from the ground up.

However, you do need to figure out exactly how you work best - for me, I don't really like school, I don't like the tests and the teachers, I like learning at my own pace, on the stuff I want to actually learn. I'd go totally nuts if I wasn't actively working on a new project on a constant basis -- however, a lot of people NEED that school structure to learn and to keep going - if you're one of those people, perhaps film school is the correct route. If you're someone who is able to keep themselves busy and has a tenacious will to improve, then by all means AVOID THE DEBT and use that money to CREATE AWESOME SHIT.

But the first step is to move somewhere where you'll be surrounded by creative people and people who are doing stuff, and that is NOT your home town, or the closest big city to your town. That's LA or NYC ... and NYC is really super expensive. So step one is move to LA.

That's my opinion on the matter! Let me know if you need any help when you come our here smile

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That is an incredibly good point. In Scotland college/university tuition fees are paid for you by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland. I also didn't take out a student loan whilst I was there, which meant I didn't have any debt to pay for. Even my 'graduation fee' was abolished when SNP implemented their changes, so I got off pretty lightly.
If it hadn't all been paid for then I would have come off a lot worse financially, and would still be paying it all off, well into my later life.

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Good post -- for me, the choice comes down to the ability to do whatever I want, with only myself and my audience to answer to, with unlimited risk of total failure and huge profits if there's success, or else basically being someone's bitch for years until you're finally trusted enough to make something. I want to be creating constantly, with a platform that provides me a route to profits, as well as a massive amount of potential eyeballs. It's too late to join the "film" system for me now, and I have no desire to join it.

Once you have an audience, a large group of people who CARE about what you do - then your ability is limitless. We've seen inklings of it now with kickstarter and some of the stuff FreddieW is up to, but it's only the start, and it WILL be a revolution, and I'll be holding the banner at the front of the line.

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Yes well i think both have there advantages and disadvantages and i have noticed that many of you have addressed the matters pretty well and in depth. For me i've learnt so much already about film and creating it without going to a film school. But i still want to go as it can kick start your career as a filmmaker, as you can build up contacts meet famous film directors and really be able to get into the in crowd of filmmakers, something one will find very difficult not going to a film school. Im still not sure what to choose but maybe in the end i could get a bursary or something because they are very expensive. But for young and up coming filmmakers we need as much exposure as possible or we will just be left behind. Thats for creating this chat, it was interesting to read.
Cheers Stef

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Interestingly found this..  Well I don't want to have to spend tons of money for film school, but I also don't want to miss out what I could learn in film school..  Or college.  I was recently doing post-High School planning I a thought came up that I could go to an 8-16 month business college.  SO then I have some college friends and experience with making my own business.

I dunno though...

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

Film Fights has been my film school. I contemplated going to film school for a while before I realized this. When you post your videos to a site like film fights, which allows for great constructive criticism from people who are trying to do the same thing you are, you not only gain a wonderful education about the art of making movies, but you also get to create your own style along the way. Instead of being taught the "right way" to do it you get to discover you're way of doing it. Yes it will be bad at the beginning, and often quite frustrating, but in the end I believe you become a better, more unique, film maker. Film School only serves as an easy way to meet people also trying to break into the industry, but if you look hard enough it's not that hard to find them on your own, and you get to make the films that you want to make instead of the ones that you "have" to make.

16 (edited by Mayhem 2013-07-09 10:44 AM)

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

Film school is for getting a post secondary education... ie: a piece of paper.  That paper is a foot in the door.  But that's it.  I've heard good and bad experiences.  I had a very good experience.  My wife had a nightmare.  But in the end, there's nothing that you can learn in school that you can't teach yourself at home... and you will learn it faster at home.  The net is filled with every course and tutorial for free.  And all jobs in the field, are learned in the field.. school will give you only a rough background or starting platform.

If you want to be a cameraman... shoot things with a camera, then try to edit them together.  You will become a camera person.  (always learn the job that follows the thing you want to do and you will become great at your job.)  If you want to direct, learn to shoot.  If you want to write, learn to direct/act.  If you want to act, learn how to direct.

If you want to edit effects-play with the tools.  No school will teach you how to edit effects.  This is learned by hands on playing around with the tools.  Learn by doing.

An education will only show you what's possible, it won't teach you anything on how to do it, That's all learned by doing.  Good teachers will tell you this front up.  They can guide.

If you want to go to school, ask your school for something before you hand them ANY money.  Ask for 5 emails of students in the previous class, and five emails from students in a class from 5 years earlier.  This is so you can contact them for a review of the program.  if the school isn't willing to provide this- DON'T GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!     

Any legit program will easily be able to provide this, and will want to provide this.  Any program that doesn't... don't give them your money!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Those exclamation marks are purposeful.  Bogus campuses are everywhere.   and film students get shit education.   I know students who went to the Center of Arts and Technology for two years of film school- and never got a single class on script writing.  (although it was listed as a course in the itinerary).  I've met graduates of film who didn't know how to line up a basic shot.   I've met students with a 2 year diploma with only 10 hours of digital edit time.

My wife took a Digital Multimedia design course- That had no courses on WEB design- I shit you not!  Even though they had 3 courses outlined in the itinerary. She had to self teach herself everything the whole course.  And because showing up for class was compulsory, it actually interfered with her learning as she learned better at home with online tuturials than she did at school.- where the teachers would play movies in class from youtube. (not course related movies)  She took a design course, but taught herself all the editing/flash/3D design stuff herself.  She has more TV and film credits than any of the students who were taking film at the school.  Although she dished out 28000, she's completely self taught.

My experience was excellent, but my teachers told me first day- you will only get out of the course what you put in.  My course was two years and cost $4800.  But while my TV and Radio instructors were two of the best educators I had ever encountered, my first journalism teacher was the worst educator I'd ever encountered.  So even my good experience was mixed.  My course was good because we did a production everyday, and put out a TV show every week.  Doing makes you learn faster than anything else.   All a school really does is provide you with the equipment and tools to learn... you only learn by putting in the hours and teaching yourself, by doing, making mistakes, and having successes.

You can save yourself money by just buying a computer, a camera, and some programs.  Its all cheaper than tuition... but if you put serious time in, you'll come out with the same education, but minus the debt, and already owning the equipment the students dream of having.

If you bought yourself these things and entered every single filmfight with the intent of winning, you'd be a better film maker in two years than 98% of the students coming out of the schools.  Film students might make 3- 10 small movies in two years, as opposed to one every week or two.    Doing is the only way to learn this stuff.  Hell, if you used nothing but a cell phone camera and Windows movie maker, you'd be a better film maker after entering every single filmfights competition in two years than most film school students.

If you are lazy, this is not the industry for you, this is an industry for self motivated people who will work night and day on their goals.  If you're not willing to do this during the education period, then the workplace will eat you alive.

It's better to try and screw it up then never try at all.

I'm not a film fighter, I'm a film lover.

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"God's away on business."

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I was recently doing post-High School planning I a thought came up that I could go to an 8-16 month business college.