Should You Go to Film School and My Experience with It

Should You Go to Film School and My Experience with It

November 30, 2019 71 By Stanley Isaacs


You are looking at a dumb little film I made in high school In 2014, I submitted this film as part of my portfolio To the film production program in Concordia University In Montreal, Canada I wanted to be an indie film writer-director Sure, Tarantino and Nolan never went to film school But one of them went to an acting school The other worked in the industry from a very young age I’m an immigrant I have no connections to the industry whatsoever While technical positions like gaffer and
grip And even logistic positions like assistant director Production manager, and script supervisor Can be learned efficiently on film set or online Creativity driven positions like a writer, editor and director? That needs a lot of peer feedback Something that Tarantino and Nolan had I don’t So going to film school is the safest bet I’m saying this because I want to use my own life as an example To help you decide if you should do the same as I do Many of us know the pros and cons of going to film school But making that decision seems like a massive leap of faith Hopefully, by seeing my process of making the leap You can find your own answers I was lucky to be a Montreal resident At the time I was applying for film school The tuition is 1800 per semester With 6 total semesters If I take the maximum amount of courses per semester I can graduate in 3 years 3600 per year is manageable Even for my single parent immigrant household And with the scholarship I got from graduating with honors If you call this plastic thing “honor” Half of my college tuition pays for itself What I didn’t know Is that film school doesn’t really help you find stable industry jobs I went to film school to be an artist By the time I graduate I’m only just starting my career Working in film jobs, on and off With that in mind I don’t think it’s worth it to go into heavy debt To pursue a film career Which was why I chose a local film school Rather than, say, NYU Holy f**k Still, I was not hopeful Hundreds of people apply for the same program each year Only 60 students are accepted One of my most talented friends had to apply three times Due to language barrier I graduated high school later than most I didn’t want to spend another extra year in education So if I don’t get into college I’ll just move on with my life The competition does have its benefits I have been an artist my entire life Literature Music And now film By the time I applied My family already realized they couldn’t stop me from being an artist By telling them that the acceptance rate is something like 1 in 10 They immediately realized that Yes, I have the talent to climb to the top First year! Our production class tasked us with making two short films First, a one minute silent film And by silent I mean no sound, no music, nothing The class aims to teach you preproduction As well as hone your skills in visual storytelling So I made “Sound Painting” A synesthetic film, where the image creates the illusion of audio The use of Chinese elements and visual proved popular And I quickly find myself being remembered by many of my peers Second semester, we have to make a 5 minute
short film On our own You can have a crew if you can organize it I’m very introverted So I only had minimal help What I made was a crappy looking horror film Looking back, it’s my least proud piece of work And it become my most watched short film online What influence me most, however Is the film study courses Primarily, film history And film aesthetics To put it simply It formed the basis of what this channel does To link elements in film with real life cultures and histories Like figuring out why movie Kung Fu look the way it does How cultural perception of swords is reflected on film As well as analyzing how a film tells its story visually Such as being able to read the camera techniques in Parasite These two courses made me realize Without going to film school I wouldn’t even know what I didn’t know There are a lot of books and online resources for these But without university curation I don’t think I can learn these theories as efficiently as I did If, at all It is so much more than just watching Citizen Kane In fact, we don’t watch Citizen Kane at all The school assumes you already watched it In second and third year Only a select few students got to be a writer director To write, produce and direct a 10 minute short film Everyone else begins to work in increasingly specific fields While in the second year, I worked mainly in the camera department I was lucky enough to be a director in my third year And I wrote, directed and produced “Keep Calm and Make Art” Because I wanted to make a movie set in a bathroom Working with a standard crew is amazing Because I got to see the film set from the top down The knowledge I gained from this Translates much better to a real life production Than if I only direct short films with my friends outside of school Not to mention, I had to handle a lot of smaller details From filling out the ridiculously long budget sheet Renting a truck To booking locations These procedures are much harder to learn by myself Without someone’s guidance and corrections Even if you are a technical crew member The hands on experience as a key crew is still useful We were trained to operate Hollywood grade cameras like Red Scarlet And Arri Alexa Because of these training One of my friends now works as an assistant camera in many film projects Straight out of school The theory courses also became more specific Entire semester devoted solely to Indian cinema The study of auteur theory Or the history of pornography One time, we watch Twilight of all things To study fandom and fan culture As stupid as it sounds, it’s one of those wake up moment Where I realize film studies isn’t about watching
good movies In fact, movies aren’t inherently good or bad It’s just good or bad relative to the culture
we are living in Metropolis was panned when it came out But now, it’s hailed as a classic That’s why so many of my videos Are about mainstream entertainment films The 50 movies I listed has way more impact in Chinese popular culture Than the art house classics They shaped and reflected the culture of a generation Whether or not this will help me make better films remains to be seen But on some level, these eye opening realizations are already worth my tuition But the most valuable thing I got from film school is Of course, connections Friends Universities tends to be a fairly liberal minded place Even more so within a fine art program I have not felt so socially accepted until I’m in film school Working together in a film Where from planning to screening takes six months Will turn any group of people into a family In the three years after my graduation I wrote and produced two short films And worked on four feature documentaries All of these opportunities were provided through friendly referrals Is that a lot of credits? No, but I’m only starting With the same set of skills I also filmed weddings for a period of time Which, actually pays pretty well I started this channel And get to know you guys and girls Now that’s awesome So, should you go to film school? Now that you know what film school has to offer You should be able to decide if you can find your alternatives Does what I learn in school facilitates towards your goal? Or can you learn them by self studying? Do you have friends within the industry? Can you afford the tuition Knowing that there’s little immediate monetary returns? I hope my story help clear things up And if you still have questions Post it down below I’ll be sure to answer them.