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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As a general disclaimer, all the links in this article are affiliate links. Please conduct your own due diligence before making any purchase, both here and anywhere on earth.

Film Shot On Cannon 7D

Canon EOS 7D with EF 28mm f/2.8

Image via Wikipedia

Living in Los Angeles, I always find it novel when I meet other filmmakers who actually went to my small, Pennsylvanian high school (there are only 2 such people that I know of). One is a filmmaker named Joseph Ort. And frankly, he is bit of a filmmaking tech-head.

He uses his Cannon 7d on weekend projects – and he wanted to share a rundown of the tech stuff used during the production of his film, Tracked:

“>Tracked trailer from d”>Shadowmind Productions on Vimeo.

Tracked was filmed on a Canon 7D with a Tamron 28-75mm (2.8) and a Canon 50mm (1.8).

For the price of the 50mm, it’s a very hard deal to pass up and it was used during a night sequence where a street lamp was the only light source. For the motorcycle driving shots, I tried to mount the 7D on the bike but found that the GoPro camera was a lot easier to place in those tricky spots. I could mount that on the side pegs, right next to the engine and even on the handle bars of the motorcycle without any worries. With some simple color correction, these two cameras match completely.

For sound, it was a basic setup of a Tascam DR-100 and two Sennheiser Ew100 G2 lavs.

The one benefit of shooting with the Canon 7D was at a train station. Normally shooting this scene with another camera, it would catch a lot of attention and we probably would have been run off by security immediately. Knowing that there was no dialogue during this scene, I was able to shoot bare bones with the 7D and probably from a far, it looked like we were just taking pictures. No security ever questioned us and we filmed that entire sequence in under 40 minutes.

Trailer at: ShadowmindProductions.com/Tracked.html

Are You Part of The Filmmaking Class?

Canon EOS 7D, front view.

The Cannon EOS 7D is changing the ways filmmakers make movies. Image via Wikipedia

Last week I had a debate with my buddy about filmmaking class. And no, I’m not talking about the classroom. But I am talking about social filmmaking status.

Basically the debate went like this: how do you decide what movies are “real” movies and what movies are “fake.”

(I know. Stupid debate, right? But if you read this, I’ll dispel a myth and forever end Hollywood movie snobbery. Promise.)

In other words, let’s say you’re a filmmaker and you decide to grab your Cannon EOS 7D and shoot a feature – how do you determine if you made a real movie or not?

ARE YOU READY TO LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FAKE MOVIE AND A REAL MOVIE? Then here is the official Jason Brubaker criteria to determine if you created a “real” movie:

Does your movie make money?

If the answer is yes, you my filmmaking friend have a real movie.

“But there are no stars in your stupid movie that you made for 20K on a borrowed camera.”

“Yeah. But it makes more money than that Tom Cruise box office bomb.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

I don’t give a crap about the idiot Hollywood snobs who would much rather ignore you and your HD camera. And so what if you never worked with Spielberg or for that matter any “name” talent. And who really cares if some band of ivy league film school graduates spent their 30k making an 8 minute, 35mm short, when you decided to make a feature?

Seriously.

The only thing that matters is if your movie makes money.

Again, seriously.

You’re a filmmaker. If you want to be in business, you must create a product. Your product is a feature film. And if you happen to shoot your feature for no money, with limited locations, with scenes that are under-lit, starring no name actors – but you actually FINISH your feature film and you find your audience and they agree to buy your movie, guess what?

  1. First of all, you are what us business minded folks call “efficient.”
  2. Secondly, by keeping your overhead low, it will take less sales to recoup your initial investment.
  3. And most importantly, you have just created a REAL movie. You are a real, professional filmmaker.

So “F” any Hollywood snob that tells you otherwise. I mean, be nice – but seriously, tell em’ to take a hike. They are probably just worried about job security – and they should be.

Here is why:

Take a look at the ever eroding options for traditional distribution. There are more feature films than ever with better and better images for less of a budget. And very soon, the entire world will be flooded with high production valued content – the likes of which Hollywood has never encountered. (For a historical reference, read about how inexpensive product and cheap labor killed Bethalam Steel and compare this to what’s happening in Hollywood.)

So as a filmmaker, you now have a few choices:

  1. Wait around for someone to discover your project and give you a gazillion dollars – so that you can have a “real” movie that will play the festivals and probably end up on iTunes and Amazon.
  2. Move to Los Angeles, fetch coffee on various “real” productions so that you can one day make a movie that will probably play the festivals and guess what? End up on Amazon and iTunes?
  3. Or starting today, you can create a movie structured around your current cash and equipment and location limitations that will (this is the kicker) play the festivals and probably end up on iTunes and Amazon.

Do you see what I’m getting at? Theatrical distribution is not a viable outlet for independent filmmakers. And video stores are changing and becoming a less viable sales outlet for indie filmmakers. So where does this leave Hollywood filmmakers and you? You got it. The internet.

And yes, I’m once again referring to:

digital self distribution.

(Tell your filmmaking friends – it’s time to face reality.)

You see, for any business to survive, you need a product (or a service) and a group of people willing to recognize that the value of your product outweighs the value of their cash.

Your movie is your product. And thanks to innovations in both production and digital self distribution, there is really no difference between the dollars spent for “real” Hollywood movies or your movie.

And if you’re making a living doing what you love, who really cares if some idiot thinks your work is sub par? I mean, this debate never bothered Roger Corman, so why should it bother you?

Now the important question is – what does this mean? For that answer, I offer a FREE filmmaking book:

www.FreeFilmmakingBook.com

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Jason Brubaker is a Los Angeles based independent producer and an expert in digital self distribution. He makes movies and he writes about making movies. More of his articles can be found at www.filmmakingstuff.com

Filmmaking Books Worth A Read

When I was working to make my first feature, I read a bunch of filmmaking books. I wanted to find out how to finish my screenplay and how to raise money for my movie. The problem was, much of the information was bogus.

A lot of those “experts” had never even made a movie! One guy even said I should ask my dentist or doctor for money.  Frustrating.

Fortunately, I found few a great filmmaking books. Here are my top 3! I didn’t put these filmmaking books in order, but in full disclosure I did use affiliate links that will redirect you to Amazon. If you don’t like Amazon, get these books somewhere else, but do read them!

  1. How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime – In this book, Roger Corman explains how he was able to build an amazing motion picture business. Now before you decide that Roger doesn’t make the type of movies you want to make – think again. New technology allows filmmakers to make movies rapidly. So it’s very possible you’ll make your first feature film sooner than you think. But the real money in movies will be your ability to sustain the product pipeline. (In other words, you need to make many movies, not just one.) Roger provides a great model for this type of thinking.
  2. Extreme DV at Used-Car Prices: How to Write, Direct, Shoot, Edit, and Produce a Digital Video Feature for Less Than $3,000 – In this book, Rick Schmidt wrote one of the classics. Despite changes in technology, one thing remains – If you are going to make a feature film, you need to take action! Rick also has workshops where you can collaborate with other filmmakers and come out with a feature film.
  3. Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player – I got this one for a gift. After reading how Robert Rodriquez sold his body to science, made a feature and became famous. If he could make feature films, so can you!

Aside from those books, I’d like to recommend one more. Filmmaking Stuff: How To Make Your Movie In 21 Steps – Ok, this is the book I wrote. But unlike the other stuff I mentioned, you can get this filmmaking book for free.

Indie Filmmaking Your Days Away. . .

A 16 mm spring-wound Bolex H16 Reflex camera, ...

The old camera used in indie filmmaking Image via Wikipedia

As an indie filmmaker, your time on set can be long. If you fall behind, your days can become longer. Long days with little rest and lots of work can cause stress. Don’t be surprised if you hit the wall from time to time and break down.

If this is your first feature, don’t feel bad. Most filmmakers either lose their temper or cry or both. If you have to cry or lose your temper, call a time out and take a walk. Go somewhere nobody can see you. There is no quicker way to lose credibility than losing your emotions on set—especially a low-budget set.

In addition to this, don’t forget: You’re not alone. Assuming you did a good job planning your days and your shots, you can rest assured everyone is working alongside you to do the best job they can.

Everyone wants to make the best movie possible. And for the reminder of the shoot, these people will be your family and share lifetime memories with you.

If you keep moving at a good pace, while working to have fun and experience filmmaking, you will reach the end. You will call cut for the last time (assuming you’re directing), and the show will be over. You’ll say: “That’s a WRAP!”