1 (edited by Thomas 2012-04-02 2:43 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.

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

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.

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

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

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

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.

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

Justin wrote:

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

Still back and forth on the idea of moving to LA. I know a lot of people down there, including you! It's tough to move a wife and four kids to a big city like that though, especially when you need work to survive. Ugh. Decisions decisions...

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film 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.

The internet goes even further than that these days. There's really no need to go to school to learn how to use programs like Adobe After Effects and Photoshop. There are tutorials abound on the internet. The same goes for information concerning techniques and the use of gear (Backyard FX anybody?). And the best part about all this internet training... IT'S FREE!!

I will admit, going to college also means getting more a streamlined education. The internet can be finicky and while there is a lot of information out there, it can be tiresome trying to find exactly what you want.

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.

Totally agreed. I live in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The combined population of all the towns around me within a 60 mile radius is probably no more than 50,000. The most densely populated city is about 50 miles away. Finding like-minded individual and people who want to participate in making films has been... we... I'll just say it. It's been a BITCH!! I also have to say that I agree with the debt thing. Film school is right up there with one of the most expensive degrees a student can obtain. It is probably in a filmmakers best interest to save the money and use it to...

CREATE AWESOME SHIT.

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

RandomAxe wrote:
Justin wrote:

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

Still back and forth on the idea of moving to LA. I know a lot of people down there, including you! It's tough to move a wife and four kids to a big city like that though, especially when you need work to survive. Ugh. Decisions decisions...

It's never ever ever too late - it just means there are more people you have to convince that it's a good idea.

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

I've thought long and hard about the decision to go to film school or not. I've always asked the opinion of anyone who was in a position to give good advice on the matter, whether they be film school grads being interviewed on the 'The Reel Good Show', or cameramen or producers. Essentially, anyone who I met/knew who was connected with the industry in some way. Some people told me it was a good idea, another guy said I had to become a runner and work my up to like the army. He also said I had to become tee-total and celibate, no distractions, write for 4 hours every single day and eventually (in about 10 years) someone would suddenly give me a chance to have a creative role as opposed to a purely technical one. It should be noted this guy seemed a little crazy.
There was also the question of; if you do take a course in film, which one? At the beginning I was very interested in the practical side. The 'learn by doing' mantra of the New York Film Acadamy was very appealing at the time, it even seemed like a good idea after I realised how much it would cost! Then a DP I know reminded me that there will always be time to learn the practical when working on actual film sets and advised me to get a good knowledge of the theory as well. I've realised having that knowledge of theory is going to be beneficial, specifically for someone who is looking to direct. I don't see theory as something that a director should constantly use for justifying decisions to his cast/crew, I certainly don't want to end up like a purely film studies grad who constantly analyses every frame. But having that backgound knowledge is going to enable you to expand your creative influences and try more things out. Film school cannot teach you creativity or instinct and a director needs to be able to see things in a unique way, otherwise it'll just look like a copy of something else. My intention is not to become another cookie cutter film school grad but I also want to have a wider field of influences than the internet.
Put simply, I like the idea of seeing a new kinds of films from all over the world that I can share and discuss with likeminded people. I also love the idea of having three years to use the resources for personal projects alongside set ones, and not have to worry about keeping down a day job at the same time.
Being in England it's a different deal to the U.S. There's fewer people for one thing - although still a reasonably high level of competition. Unlike living in L.A, where it seems like in every restauarant people are always talking about the film industry, I prefer the idea of living (and learning) in a more grounded place. In 'Rebel Without a Crew' Rodriguez says if he lived in L.A it would get a little too crazy and that he preferred to keep more of a birds eye view on things (he also said don't bother going to film school - you'll notice him and I don't agree on everything)
In England our film industry is far smaller but also of a very high quality (I like to think so anyway ha!) and also more accessible I think. That's probably why I don't feel it's necessary to turn this whole game on it's head, sure things are changing, at an insane rate, but I don't think YouTube is going to topple Hollywood any time soon. Maybe you guys want to start afresh because you feel the current system is too inaccessible. Does that sound accurate?
Justin, I remember when you were talking to Matt and I in London about the way things are headed. What would happen if FreddieW charged a dollar each for their videos? And yet when Jake and Amir released their 30 minute special for $1, fewer people bought it than the amount of views it would have got had it been for free. Even though your in a better position to see how YouTube is working, I still don't think audiences are ready to treat internet content the same way they treat what's on at their cinema. Maybe in a while, but not now.
None of us like the Hollywood system, doesn't mean I want to destroy it. I'm more comfortable with the British industry which is less bearucratic as far as I know. But to be honest, there's always going to be politics, whatever you do. Even if it's a brand new egalitarian YouTube utopia.
I've worked on set for music promos, TV and a feature. I can learn all about C-Stands, magliners, on set politics and get a true sense for what it's like on the floor, something they definitely don't teach you in film school. I'm going to be doing that for a year before I start my course in 2013. There I'll be able to try out practical stuff for my own projects but also meet other people and learn about new films that I wouldn't get to do just pulling cables on set.
I'm a firm believer in the whole Indy Mogul DIY spirit, I have been for the last 4 years, being innovative at a time like this is vital, but at the same time I'm trying to get experience across the whole spectrum and not limit myself, and I think film school can be part of that. If I was only interested in making cool stuff than I'd probably not be going down this route. But I'd like to eventually be making things that have more of an impact too, things that stay with you longer than 5 minutes.
That's why I don't want to be the next David Lehre.

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

Volatile Productions wrote:

That's why I don't want to be the next David Lehre.

Don't diss Chad Future, yo.

http://i.imgur.com/SNGgL.jpg

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

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.

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

Justin wrote:

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.

http://fim.413chan.net/fic/src/132545949363-hi_boner.gif

http://i.imgur.com/SNGgL.jpg

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

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

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

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 12:44 PM)

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.

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

Mayhem wrote:

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.

Wonderfully written and super true!!! big_smile

"God's away on business."

Re: Film School Vs DIY Film Education

Hey you guys!

Maybe not relevant seems I didn't study at film school I did study two years of media at college. The first year I spent my time building websites etc but was then told for my second year I had to shoot a video.

I got my ideas down on paper and my teacher at the time really liked it (I should mention that the same teacher turned me in to a Troma fan). Anyway in my second year I ended up with a new teacher and when I showed him my plans, he didn't like it.

I went with my gut and plodded on with my original plans and made what I wanted for rest of the term. Fast forward to the end of year awards, I won best music video, yay! http://youtu.be/Wa94ZZtL8BQ .

So in one year I shot one music video and some jackass type footage to get use to the camera (2003/4). Sure I enjoyed my time in class and met a bunch of great people and even went on to buy my own camera and mac to carry on my new hobby BUT I have learnt way more since then by doing everything myself and using YouTube for tutorials.

Teachers can only teach you so much and there's far more to learn then what they have to teach and I'd rather make what I want to make then something my teacher thinks I should make. The only really bonus of being there apart from meeting like-minded people was all the cool equipment you could borrow if needed...as long as you didn't break it:s

Also a few years back I did an 8 week evening film class at the same college. Each week we would focus on a different part of filmmaking and when it came to practicals we would take it in turns doing different parts of the job. Well 2 hours a week over 8 weeks isn't really long enough to make a short film when everyone in the class has their own ideas, we didn't get anywhere fast. Well the Sunday before the last class I took everything we had planned on paper and shot/edited the whole film using my family members at my dads workplace. I took it to class and they played it on the big screen and it ended up being better then the film we had made in 8 weeks.

Grab a camera, shoot and learn from your mistakes.