Should You Go To Film School?

If you’re just starting out as a filmmaker, deciding if you should attend a traditional film school is something you need to decide. And it’s a costly decision – some of my friends here in Los Angeles are over fifty-thousand dollars in debt.

While most of my friends value having a college education, all agree that having a  film school degree will not guarantee success in Hollywood. Like any industry, becoming successful requires passion, commitment and hard work.

Last year, I was introduced to filmmaker Seth Hymes. When he was in high school, he worked as Production Assistant, Sound Tech and an Editor. After high school, he went off to film school. In fact, he graduated from NYU with honors. From there, he was an editor for Fox News Channel and also managed to get two features into production.

So I sat down with Seth and asked him some questions about his experience.

Jason Brubaker
Seth. After visiting your website and chatting, you seem to have an interesting perspective on formal film school education. What are your thoughts? Is there any value in film school?

Seth Hymes
No, there isn’t. And it’s a great question. What does “value” mean? It means that something adds merit or worth to your life for a reasonable cost. A lot of people say things like “you learn the basics” and it’s a “good place to experiment”.

Jason Brubaker
So in your experience, you think film school is over priced?

Seth Hymes
Well, in film school, you write a check for $100,000. In return, they give you a $2,000 video camera and tell you how to push the on button. Are you going to learn something? Sure. Is it valuable? No. There is no value in learning basic technical concepts for an obscene mark up in cost.

Jason Brubaker
In the past, students enrolled in film school because held the promise of networking, as well as access to equipment. You’re saying this sort of stuff is no longer relevant?

Seth Hymes
The 3 main “values” of film school are no longer relevant. They are, access to equipment, lessons in filmmaking craft and connections. In the 60s, 70s, and 80s, when people like Lucas, Scorsese, and Spike Lee went to film school, it was probably a good investment. You couldn’t just pick up a high quality HD camera and start shooting. Filmmaking equipment cost a ton of money and was hard to find. You really couldn’t learn about things like continuity and storyboarding without either apprenticing with a filmmaker or going to school. And it was a good place to meet other creative professionals.

Jason Brubaker
But all of that has changed.

Seth Hymes
Yeah. If you look at today, High Definition filmmaking equipment costs less than a semester at most film schools. The craft of filmmaking, from lighting, editing, shot composition, writing – all of it is available to learn on websites like yours, as well as other sites all over the net. And these days, most connections happen through the net. And further, many new filmmakers find their agents because they produce a short and get some heat on youtube, rather than meeting them in school.

Jason Brubaker
Sort of a silly question. But would you recommend that anybody attends film school?

Seth Hymes
I do not recommend anybody attend film school. It is an unholy waste of money and time. And not only are the schools making a huge profit, they also neglect to teach their grads about anything of real value or importance when it comes to having a career in the business. Things like real networking, fundraising, or film distribution.

Jason Brubaker
So instead of film school, what suggestions do you have for any students who is considering a degree in filmmaking?

Seth Hymes
If you’re considering film school, here’s the litmus test. If it’s a community college or vocational school where classes are anywhere from $60 to $1000, go for it. If anyone is charging more than that, they are making an obscene profit and should be dismissed outright. You will be mocked within the film business for attending such an institution. Instead, I recommend that students save their money, buy their own equipment, and learn how to shoot their own movie.

These days, filmmakers can learn everything you need to know in a week or less.

Jason Brubaker
Reading your posts on other websites and the comments that follow, I can see why some filmmakers, especially the filmmakers sitting on film school debt can get a little emotional with your perspective.

Seth Hymes
Most film school grads and filmmakers agree with me, but there are a few haters. Some people hate hearing the truth. It’s hard for some people to admit they got hosed out of $100K, but the consensus everywhere is that film school is a waste.

Jason Brubaker
I took a look at your website. Tell us what you teach there.

Seth Hymes
I teach people first, exactly why places like NYU are a complete joke and secondly, what to do instead of film school. There’s a lot of pressure to go to college, and I understand that. My book “Film Fooled” is a powerful reality check, a class by class account of NYU’s film curriculum to help people realize that no, they are not missing out on anything by skipping film school.

Jason Brubaker
Sounds like you think film schools should improve their curriculum.

Seth Hymes
Yeah. I get into the stuff they should be teaching in schools. Mainly, how to be taken seriously as a director from day one, how to get on real film sets, meet real working filmmakers, write feature scripts, manage a set, hire film students, and get seen. Anyone taking my course will be 4 years ahead of any film school student in just a week.

Jason Brubaker
Ok. So tell us about your online film course.

Seth Hymes
Ok. To find out more about my courseware at Film School Secrets, prospective filmmakers can Click Here!

Jason Brubaker
Thanks for stopping by Seth.

Seth Hymes
Thanks for having me.

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Movie Marketing: Are Film Festivals Losing Relevance?

Filmmakers often utilize film festivals as a way to get their work seen and hopefully sold. And while acceptance to top-tier festivals is super exciting – the reality is, many filmmakers do not get in.

As a result, many of these semi-dejected filmmakers take a shotgun approach to their festival strategy. They start applying for most every regional and local film festival, everywhere. And aside from outlandish application fees, upon arrival to these festivals – instead of  meeting a bunch of VIP acquisitions executives, most second tier festivals are populated by a bunch of other desperate filmmakers shoving postcards in your face, eagerly advertising their screening times to, well, other filmmakers.

Sometimes this includes free beer. (Most times not.)

While having delusions of distribution grandeur is still part of the film festival fun – with the demise of DVD distribution, and the odds that you won’t get into Sundance – it is vitally important that you create a film festival strategy PLAN B.

What is a film festival strategy PLAN B?

Simply put, if you are serious about making your movie profitable, YOU are now responsible for marketing, promotion and distribution of your movie. And inline with this strategy, you must view regional and second tier festivals as an opportunity to build your audience list. But instead of handing out postcards to other filmmakers, your marketing strategy will be smarter.

Here are five tips on making film festivals relevant to your movie business:

  1. Write a press release specific to the festival and then distribute to the local press. This also involves picking up the phone and personally inviting the press to attend your screening. Many festivals will have a press list. You can use this – but I would also advise conducting additional internet searches for other press outlets.
  2. Many local towns have a filmmaker community. Reach out to them. If you are traveling, it’s great to have someone to pal around with. The secondary benefit to this is, many of these same people will have relationships with the festival staff – always good to know people on the staff.
  3. If the festival allows it, see if you can take several clipboards into your screening. You’ll want to collect the names and email addresses of each viewer and get their permission to email them. Later you will enter this data into your audience list.
  4. If your film website does not include a blog component, add one. Then update frequently. Add pictures and video. Let the world know your movie is screening. People like this stuff.
  5. And finally, most regional festivals have panel discussions with industry experts. Make sure you attend these. Take your business cards. And then try to build relationships with whomever is on the panel. (And as a side note, if you know anybody looking for a panelist – I suggest inviting Jason Brubaker from Filmmaking Stuff? Just sayin’)

Out of everthing I mentioned, the most important strategy for your movie and your modern moviemaking career is grow your own fan base. This way, when you focus on building your audience list, you stress a lot less about the traditional distribution deal you may or may not have received at one of the notorious festivals.

So yes. Film festivals are still relevant. They offer a great way to source an audience for a minimal marketing investment.

Also, I’d like to thank one of our filmmaking stuff readers named Michael for this question. If you would like to get on the filmmaking stuff VIP list, click here >>

Indie PMD With Jon Reiss and Sheri Candler

Jon Reiss and Sheri Candler stopped by Filmmaking Stuff a few months back to discuss the  new role of the indie PMD. For those of you who aren’t aware of the term – PMD stands for producer of marketing and distribution. It’s a phrase Jon Reiss coined in his filmmaking book called Think Outside the Box Office.

The feedback was so awesome, that I decided to have the interview transcribed. And in text form, it comes out to over 20 pages of useful filmmaking information.

If you’re a modern moviemaker – heck, it doesn’t matter if you’re a film student or a working professional, the content in this interview is recommended reading for all filmmakers. While I think it’s worth a gazillion bucks, I decided to simply give it away! To get your complementary copy of the Jon Reiss and Sheri Candler interview by Jason Brubaker, click here  >>

Happy Filmmaking!

Filmmaking Success Tips For Sourcing An Audience

Because of an eroding DVD market, the modern moviemaking model dictates that you (as a filmmaker) must treat your independent movie business just like any other small business.

YOU have a product (your movie) and YOU must sell your product. In order to sell your product, you must find a customer and convince them that your movie is worth more than their money. Obvious right?

But most filmmakers have no idea how to find a customer.  It’s not your fault. I blame the STUPID notion that filmmakers should concentrate solely on making movies without considering how to source their target audience.  Think about it. Filmmakers traditionally depended on some sort of middle-man distributor to come in deus ex machina style to provide a big fat cash advance. But that was then…

Now, as a result of DSLR technology, you have a whole world of filmmakers flooding the market with awesomely good-looking backyard indies.  It’s an example of supply and demand. There are too many movies! And there are too few traditional deals. And sadly, most filmmakers have no idea how to get their movies seen and selling. As a result, the entire world of indie filmmaking is belly-up.

The only way modern moviemakers can compete and succeed is to learn from traditional small businesses. Filmmakers must focus on finding creative ways to produce movies inexpensively and spend tremendous effort (and little money) sourcing an audience. Which, when you compare the filmmaker’s need for customer acquisition to other businesses, it’s really the same thing.

Welcome to the new movie business!

So who wins? Filmmakers who can source an audience for their movies are in better shape than those who can not. Period.

How do your source an audience: In two words – Internet marketing.

I got news for you. Selling a movie online is no different than selling an eBook! But not everybody knows how to sell things online. That is OK. I explain this in my book. And for those of you not ready to get my book (so you can discover my mad movie marketing methods) – here is a tip as well as an actionable item: Crowdfunding.

By now you’ve heard of crowdfunding. But the little secret that nobody is talking about is this – Not all movie projects will get fully funded by the crowd. BUT, by creating a campaign, you essentially get the word out about your movie. You increase your YouTube hits (because you presumably embed your trailer into your campaign)… And even if your campaign is not successfully funded, anybody who did donate is now part of your future audience. Hmmm.

I know I’m on a bit of a rant today. So I’m going to slow-my-roll. If you like this filmmaking stuff, make sure you click here   >>

And if you want to see me speak or attend any of my workshops, telephone your local film festival and leave this message on their answering machines –> I WANT TO SEE Jason Brubaker LIVE.

Feel free to comment below.

Make Your Movie Now

Dominant learning style of target audience

Dominant learning style of target audience - Image via Wikipedia

As a filmmaker, I think the idea of producing your own work is good. I don’t really believe in asking anyone for permission to make my movies – including traditional industry executives or other producers.

I see this in Hollywood all the time. People have an idea for a movie, but instead of trying to create their own movie business, they spend days, weeks, months, and (sometimes) entire lifetimes hoping to find someone else to do the heavy lifting.

While this may seem like an easy route, it can be a very difficult path. Why? Because you are relying on other people to do the producing for you. And in my opinion that takes way too long!

Imagine you are someone who desires to open your own business. Would you do it yourself? Or would you rely on someone else to do it for you?

Example: “Hey. I got this great idea for a hardware store. If I tell you my idea and show you my business plan, will you open my hardware store for me?”

Do you understand what I mean? Trying to create a business like this would be crazy talk.

Of course if you want to open YOUR own business, YOU would open it.

So if you happen to be one of those filmmakers with tons of ideas, but no feature credits, I highly suggest you focus less on finding someone to do the heavy lifting and instead, focus on testing the market to gain a realistic approach to your projects.

To get started, ask these questions:

  1. What is my Hook?
  2. Who is my intended target audience?
  3. What is my budget?
  4. Are there enough people within my target audience to justify the budget?
  5. How do I intend to reach my target audience?
  6. How much will my sales and marketing cost?
  7. From this, what is my projected return on investment?

If you’re new to the modern moviemaking model, then you will either agree with me or you won’t. In the event you like what you’re reading, then you can become part of the modern moviemaking revolution by grabbing a copy of the official Filmmaking Stuff newsletter. To grab it, go here >>