I took a trip to Vancouver and Vegas last week. On the ride back from Canada, I got into a spirited discussion with my seatmate about film schools and the film industry. I told her about my site and how I talk young people out of blowing their life savings on school and what to do instead.
There’s always a moment right after I share what I do with someone new that I brace myself for a backlash. Part of my still fears I will somehow hear “That’s terrible! Film Schools are wonderful and prepare young people for the rigors of working in the industry!” And then they will spit in my face and walk away.
But in 4 years of doing this, that’s never happened. In fact, my new friend laughed and said, “Right on. I never, ever hire graduates.”
I asked her what she does in the industry, and she said she is a Producer for a reality show. “Which one?” I asked. “Big Brother”. Huh. That’s a pretty huge show. But that’s networking. You get on a plane and say hi to someone and you’ve met someone new.
The gist of her gripe with film school graduates is that they don’t know what they are doing, are usually entitled or think they are better than other people who didn’t go to school. Whatever the reasons, the overall message was the same I’ve heard from industry pros for years: school is not only a waste of time, it can actually hurt you.
Film is not an Academic field. It’s as if you went to school and got a degree in waiting tables. A film set is a lot like a restaurant during the dinner rush. Shit is happening fast and it doesn’t matter who you are or where you went to school, but can you handle your shit and get the food delivered and keep the customers happy? A film school grad is like the guy holding up the kitchen while he recites the history of the ingredients of all the food on the menu but can’t handle making sure his 4 tables get their food on time.
Consider the typical entry level job on a production. You’re going to be working as a PA, or Production Assistant. In 1999 I was stopped on the streets of New York by a PA wearing a walkie talkie, because Woody Allen and Kenneth Branaugh were filming “Celebrity” on the street. It was a cool moment. The PA’s job was essentially to stop people from walking onto the set. That’s the kind of stuff you do on a film set if you are going to start below the line. And, as I teach myself students, you just aren’t going to jump the line into being a Director — because how the hell can you realistically expect to grow from the guy who gets coffee to the visionary of a movie? It never happens.
So imagine the insanity of paying someone $90,000 to get a degree to get coffee. Not only is it a waste of time, but if you were a Line Producer would you really want to hire someone that spent a few years and $90,000 studying for a job that is basically getting coffee and stopping traffic? No. That person is going to be a terrible worker. You’d just get someone young and hungry. Which is what Jack C. Smith, a 20 year veteran of the business, looks for when hiring new crew members.
What’s worse is that the film schools, even after luring new students by promising them a glamorous career in the business as a Director, lie to them and tell them that getting a production job is the way to somehow get into directing. It just doesn’t happen, and students find this out the hard way. This is an email I got from a graduate of LA Film School explaining just that:
Follow your dreams, but do it intelligently. Don’t pay a small fortune for a degree and don’t start working below the line if you want to direct. Our training is the only one of it’s kind to teach students to make a feature and market it directly to an audience. To learn more about our training click here.
Let’s get specific about film schools and film directing. This video from NYFA shows the kind of things you learn in their very expensive programs. The instructor talks about “continuity”.
Continuity simply means cutting shots together so they appear to be linear. Example: a guy is standing outside his house turns the key and walks inside. We cut to a shot of him inside the house.
Pretty simple right?
Or as in the video, two people are sitting across the table from each other and you frame one of them on the left side of the frame and the other on the right to make it clear to the audience where people are.
Again, pretty basic.
So here’s the deal. Most people who have picked up a camera and started shooting, even in high school, have got this concept down. It takes about 5 minutes to learn, like tying your shoelace. There are videos on youtube explaining this and the one below.
At NYFA (and similarly at NYU, etc.) students sit in a classroom and a guy like this explains this very simple concept then they go out and shoot a short film where they frame people on the correct sides of the frame or cut from one shot to another and call it “continuity”.
You can do a google search for “nyfa continuity” and you will see all these 2 minute short films.
Now, is this a good exercise to do? Sure. Is it worth being part of a $18,000 a semester program?
I’m kind of dumbfounded because I receive messages from people all the time defending the fact that they took out $35,000 in loans to learn remedial stuff like this. But hey, I can’t and don’t want to convince those folks. If you really need to spend that kind of cash to learn this kind of simple stuff, then perhaps film school is a good idea.
Personally, I think you can do better than that and deserve more for your money, which is why I show people to go beyond the basics and create likeable characters, tension, use camera movement, cinematic lighting with affordable equipment, directing actors for the screen, writing, shooting, editing, and marketing a feature film for less than a class at a $100,000 film school.
If you’d like to learn those kind of skills, then go to:
And if you want to sit in a classroom to learn the basics of cutting from one shot to another, you can visit:
One of the most mind boggling things about film schools such as NYU (and AFI and USC) is the fact they continue to leverage the success of a handful of uber successful grads from 40 years ago. I wasn’t immune to this myself. When I was 17 in the mid 90s, I dreamed of going to NYU because I “heard that Martin Scorcese went there”.
I didn’t think about the fact that he attended 30 years earlier before the invention of the video camera, and went during a time when film school was the only way you could realistically get your hands on film equipment. I also didn’t look at the fact that NYU has graduated tens of thousands of students in the past 4 decades and only 1 or 2, Scorsese, Spike Lee, Ang Lee, has achieved that level of success.
George Lucas went to USC in the 70s. This is George freaking Lucas. The pioneer of digital cinema and crazy f/x man. The guy who ditched the Hollywood establishment to found his kingdom in Northern California. Sure he went to USC, because in the 70s how else were you supposed to make a film? You couldn’t exactly grab your own flatbed editing system or film camera without spending a small fortune. So he went to school.
If Lucas were 18 today, do you think he’d be sitting in a classroom paying $40,000 a year to make some ridiculous black and white short films? No. He’d be one of the wild young DIYers putting together his own camera rigs and shooting a 7 part epic feature series and pimping it online.
It’s 2014. And banking on the fact that a handful of superstars went to a film school years ago just doesn’t warrant a $100,000 investment. So let’s look at some examples.
NYU had it’s heydey in the 70s and 80s when Scorsese and Spike Lee went to their graduate programs. Can you name a recent graduate who has even made a feature film?
Recent Film School Graduates are Not Directing Movies
AFI has a long and storied history, but look at their alumni list. Nearly every single name is a graduate from the 1970s, 80s, or 90s. You can see the full list here: http://www.afi.com/conservatory/alumni/alumni.aspx
Look for any names of people who graduated in the past 10 years. The one name there, 2003 graduate Bradley Beucker is listed a Director of “Eat Pray Love” but noted he was just the editor.
The same goes for USC and NYU, which are considered the top “name” film schools. There may be a working director who graduated from their ranks here and there but it’s a very small percentage of the thousands of people they graduate who end up working below the line entry level crap positions that don’t have anything to do with directing. Case in point, once again, the Kevin Smith clip which humorously illustrates the real plight of most film school grads.
Remember the “Coalition of the Willing” in the Iraq War? You had Great Britain, the US, Australia, and Poland. Everyone else was like “no”. It’s the same with film schools. There are a couple of big names but nearly every successful filmmaker you can think of from JJ Abrams to Hitchcock to Tarantino to David Fincher and on and on never went to school.
What About the Other Film Schools?
LA Film School alumni Brian Taylor went to the school in 2006 and went on to direct the movie “Crank” with Jason Statham. That’s great for Taylor. But the sad truth is that he is literally only one out of thousands of grads from that school to achieve a directing credit on that level. Yet the school pimps him to convince young people to invest $40,000 a year in their program to play with some video cameras and make short films.
They don’t teach the process by which Taylor had to hustle and lead after school to move from short filmmaking into a feature. In fact if you look at their latest alumni newsletter you’ll see they highlight Martin Moody, a 2006 grad who has been working in the camera department on a number of productions for the past few years. He worked as an AC on the movie “Nebraska” and that is apparently worth of highlighting in their alumni newsletter.
This isn’t to poo poo Mr. Moody for working in the business. But there is no reason he should have spent $80,000 to start working in the camera department on movies. Most people doing so never went to school. And you’d think the school would have something better to show from their alumni, like other feature films being directed, than an 8 year graduate working in the camera department.
New York Film Academy is another hilarious example. You can’t name even one working director who attended their programs. And the same can be said of Full Sail — a recent student of mine informed me that the only Director they could even name who had made a feature was the guy who directed “Saw V”, David Hackl.
How Should You Judge a Film School?
Now I’m not saying we should expect every film school to produce hundreds of Oscar winning or Box Office dominating directors. But at least you’d think film school graduates would be making Feature Films. Even if the movies suck, or are too “artsy” for mainstream consumption. At least they would be living the dream of directing a real movie.
But these schools still only teach short filmmaking and provide no training on how to make feature films, much less how to make a living doing that. Film Schools have popped up all over the planet, graduating thousands of students a year paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition. A school shouldn’t be able to point out 1 out of every 1,000 grads who actually makes a feature and say that is a “success”. It’s a freaking failure, big time!
You should judge a film training program not on what a handful of grads did 40 years ago, nor the size of the building in which the equipment is housed, or whatever US News and World report “ranks” the school. You should judge it by what they actually teach you to do.
And that’s why in my programs, student learn to make feature films. They learn how to tell stories that are engaging and keep people’s attention. They learn how to build an audience and make money from their movies. They learn how to realistically have a Directing career.
If that’s something you want, then enter your name and email below and learn about the world’s most practical and exciting film training program:
Every once in a while a student will contact me with an interest in enrolling in the Film School Solution coaching course, but with the caveat that they are interested in documentary filmmaking. And while I know most people and myself are more focused on narratives, I want anyone considering documentaries to realize that even if you are working with a real life subject, the fundamentals of good storytelling are required for a good documentary.
The only thing worse than a bad student narrative film are bad student documentaries that are boring, preachy, or way too serious, because the filmmakers don’t respect the audiences need to be engaged in a compelling story.
There is a reason why stories like “March of the Penguins” and Michael Moore’s works do so well. They engage and entertain. They are about topics people care about or are controversial. They include tension, likeable or hateable characters, and there is a narrative.
I am huge fan of documentaries and I decided to list 3 of my favorites that are not only very entertaining, but at least 2 have been related to Hollywood movies or TV Shows.
#1. When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions
The actual NASA missions to the Moon are fascinating and dramatic tales of human ingenuity, courage, and triumph. We take our technology for granted these days, which is why it’s so mind blowing to realize that we sent human beings 100,000 away to an orbiting satellite with computers the size of Buicks. We’re talking 40 year old technology, mounting human beings on rockets that were once ballistic missiles, risking death on national TV. It was incredible.
The actual build up of the Mercury missions, when we sent the first American into space Alan Shepard is harrowing enough. They had this guy mounted on a rocket with tons of TNT level explosives. He sat on top of the rocket for four hours because nobody in Mission Control wanted to be the one to give the order. His heart rate was 200 beats per minute resting, he pissed himself, and he finally said “let’s do it”, and they really didn’t know if he was just going to get blown up, or make it through the atmosphere.
The Doctors thought that in space, because of zero gravity, your retina would detatch and your eyeball would come out of its socket. Or you wouldn’t be able to swallow.
We take it for granted, but they really didn’t know what would happen. That is real life courage, something you don’t see much these days but is great inspiring material for a good doc.
And it’s amazing to see the progression from one guy in space for a few orbits, up to dual pilot missions, into the Apollo Missions where they sent guys into deep space to fly around the moon, and then finally to the moon.
To date, the only big Hollywood movie made about this program was Apollo 13, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks. It’s a nail biting story of the only time in all of the NASA missions to that point there was a major malfunction, and everyone had to figure out how to get the astronauts home.
Watching the documentary’s account of the cry tank stir, the astronauts having no idea what was wrong, having to jettison their command module… is more harrowing than the movie version.
And that’s the thrilling thing, when I watch the interviews with the guys who went into Space, you think this really happened. And I can hardly believe it. The story is so big it trumps the individual personality of any one character, but that is a story worth telling.
#2. Man on Wire
This is the story of Philippe Petit, a real life Frenchman tight rope walker who walked between the Twin Towers in 1974. While the NASA missions doc is much more epic, this doc is much more in alignment with what you would consider shooting: the story of one remarkable person and something incredible they did.
The doc delves into Petit’s daredevil and childlike personality, his history, and how he become obsessed with the idea of walking between the two towers after the buildings were constructed. So, like any good narrative, you have a likeable character on a mission. The time we spend with Petit we get to know him – he is arrogant and a little (or a lot) insane, but you just like him, he is so damn enthusiastic. He is willing to risk his life for his dream, which is something extraordinary.
Where the movie takes on Hollywood level tension is when you actually hear about how they pulled off the walk itself. Sneaking into the WTC, setting up the wire, it’s all incredible, terrifying. You know he survives, but you can’t stop listening to the story to see how it all went down.
A tight rope walker needs tension on the line to walk across without falling. Similarly a good narrative needs tension, whether it’s a doc or fiction, and this is where many docs fail. Watch “Man on Wire” to see a great example of a story that builds the tension more and more intensely until the very end, leaving you feeling almost as exhausted as if you had walked across the wire yourself.
#3: “Prohibition” by Ken Burns
Ken Burns has made a hell of a lot of good docs in his day, but my most recent favorite is one about the period of Prohibition in America. I’m a huge fan of “Boardwalk Empire” and the time period of the 20s. It was a weird time in America. Can you imagine if alcohol was illegal today? Seriously, it boggles the mind. The Social Media backlash alone would be so fast it would never get off the ground. But 100 years ago, our Congress voted to make it a crime to take a drink.
And if you think Obamacare is causing problems, it’s nothing compared to the chaos caused by the Volstead Act.
Many of the characters form “Boardwalk Empire” from Enoch Thompson to George Remus to Dean O’banion to Al Capone (of course) were real gangsters really benefited from this ridiculous legislation. I have been watching the doc along with “Boardwalk” and its cool to see how the show’s writers incorporate the real life historical facts into the story.
But what’s even more fascinating are the other stories of the impact of Prohibition on cities and people you haven’t heard of. The history of the legislation is equally fascinating – I did not realize that before that time people drank in America about 10 times more than today. People drank with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it was much more common for families to be torn apart by alcohol, and that is what spurned the temperance movement.
The Temperance movement was spearheaded mostly by women – and one named Carrie Amelia Moore Nation was definitely movie worthy. Rather than peacefully protesting, this woman actually went into saloons with rocks threw them into the glass on the storefront and into their mirrors until they were destroyed. She got arrested, released, and did this again and again. She was like Ghandi but violent, a woman, and she used rocks.
Burns covers a lot of ground in this 3 part series, but what’s interesting to think about is how many of the stories in this series could be worthy of their own documentary. Or, did these stories have limited appeal and were better told in a 5 minute segment within a larger context. Burns is a master of keeping people interested in historical subjects that are epic and may not seem terribly compelling at first glance.
Whether Directing Docs or Narratives, Audience Engagement is Key
What’s never discussed in any film school is simple the importance of maintaining an audiences attention. Whether you want to tell stories about real life events or those that take place in fictional worlds, you need to understand the art of making people want to know “what the hell happens next?” That is what a good director needs to know how to do regardless of format. To discover the only film program that teaches audience engagement in depth and prepares you for a directing career, check out http://filmschoolsolution.com!
Which camera do I buy?!?
Time and again I hear these questions and time and again I tell students the same thing: the camera doesn’t matter. I would rather watch a dog food commercial shot by Quentin Tarantino on an iphone than the average student film shot on a 35mm Panavision rig.
And here is a great example. Recently I helped out on the behind the scenes footage for Adam William Ward. Adam shot a pilot using the RED Scarlet. (We have had repeated discussions about the necessity of using a RED camera). Granted the RED looks great, but here is something interesting. The behind the scenes footage was shot with a little Canon t2i, the 18 Megapixel wonder camera I recommend for my students.
The RED Scarlet package costs upwards of $30,000 with lenses and accessories. The Canon t2i was about $600 and $100 for the lens I was using. I found a location that I new would be visually engaging and set it up with a couple of cheap lights.
So watch the video below. The first shot is from the $600 t2i with no lighting except daylight. At :13 you will see a montage of RED Scarlett footage. Then at: 25 pay close attention to the interview shots with people in front of the fireplace. Was this shot with the RED Scarlet or the t2i?
t2i gives Red Scarlett a Run for the Money?
Those interview shots in front of the fireplace were shot with the t2i. Pretty sweet right? The editor was confused and said “The shots in front of the fireplace look better than the stuff shot with the RED.”
Now let me say this: Adam’s project is awesome and looks great. You can see footage from the show itself in the opening sequence, with his two great actors Charlie and Ron acting like crazy people. But isn’t it strange to see footage from a $30,000 camera and a $600 camera intercut like that and not really see a huge difference?
This is a stark contrast to the 1990s, when I went to film school. Back then, if you took a market grade VHS camera and intercut it with a prograde camera, the difference was night and day. The consumer level camera looked like crap.
But today, you can get stunning images with inexpensive cameras – the key is to learn how to frame, shoot, and light, cinematically, which is what I teach in Film School Solution. But the truth is even the best images can’t save a bad story, which is why the focus of Film School Solution for the entire first month is on engaging storytelling to make movies people want to see.
Adam did that incredibly well with his new Pilot Parole officers, which I will be writing about more shortly. It’s got a hysterical storyline and GREAT acting. He opted to shoot with the RED and it does look bomb. Of course he lives in LA where RED cameras are plentiful. But if you find yourself outside of LA and are freaking out because you think you need $1,000 a day to rent a pro camera, snap out of it. Get your own DSLR camera and learn to light it cinematically, and you will be amazed at the images you can get.
There’s no question the explosion of digital technology in the last 10 years has changed the industry. But one thing hasn’t changed: the essence of a good movie.
Movies are still about great storytelling. But it seems like new filmmakers are still convinced that the perfect, most cutting edge equipment will somehow make their movie stand out.
I frequently get emails from aspiring filmmakers wondering what camera to buy and what accessories to purchase, launching into in depth conversations about pixels and color grading. But rarely do I get questions about how to create a compelling character or a story that audiences will talk to their friends about.
I love new toys as much as the next guy. But I’d rather see a movie that Quentin Tarantino shot on his camera phone about a family having breakfast than another short film shot on the RED with gunshots and no characters that I care about.
It’s not that visuals aren’t important. I cringe when I see indie films with blatant backlighting, or character’s faces shrouded in strange shadows. But once you’ve lit a scene evenly and are working with a decent camera, everything else is indulgent. Cameras are light years ahead of where they were even 5 years ago.
I know this might offend some DPs. When I was doing a crew call for a low budget feature last year, I received a resume from an accomplished professional who had shot some network shows. He was shooting $1 Million an episode TV. I was working with a budget under six figures, and my Director wanted to shoot with DSLR.
The DP chided me, insisting that 4K was the bare minimum. His reasoning? 6K was coming up, and pretty soon 1080i would be obsolete, you wouldn’t even be able to watch it on television or the internet. Was this forward thinking or being alarmist? I think the latter.
Visuals Are Important, But Not What Makes a Movie Great
I’ve known DPs and Gaffers who will walk out of a movie if they see what they consider sub par visuals. Meanwhile, the rest of the theater will stay and enjoy the show.
This may be controversial to say: but audiences just don’t care what your movie was shot on, so long as it doesn’t look absolutely horrible.
First features like “Clerks”, “Pi”, and “Following” are all perfect examples. These movies launched the directing careers of Kevin Smith, Darren Aronofsky, and Christopher Nolan. They were all shot on black and white 16mm and looked pretty awful.
Then there was “The Brothers McMullen”, another indie gem by Ed Burns that was in such bad shape, the studio had to do a lot of work in post to make some of the scenes usable.
Danny Boyle’s horror classic “28 Days Later” redefined the zombie genre. It was shot on multiple Canon XL1 Standard Def video cameras with a effective sensor resolution of only .4 Megapixels.
Fan favorites from “The Karate Kid” to “The Breakfast Club” have adequate cinematography. Even “Pulp Fiction” isn’t that visually impressive. Think of how the latest Hollywood CGI juggernaut like “Battleship” is so sorely lacking in terms of story and forgettable.
“Napoleon Dynamite”. “Superbad.” “Memento”. “Paranormal Activity”. Inventive, silly, wildly unpredictable, terrifying. These are the things people talk about with their friends that propels movies into our collective memory.
Is Your Movie Going Theatrical?
I’m not advocating bad lighting or cinematography. But put things in context. Whether you are shooting a short film or making an Independent Feature, the likelihood of a theatrical release is very unlikely. Most people will be consuming your media either on their home computers, laptops, or televisions. Does it make sense to put all your money and energy into the picture resolution when your audience is watching it one a screen the size of a lunchbox?
It’s better to focus that energy into the quality of the story, while still assuring visual quality. But there’s no need to stress about the Black Magic vs. the 5D or comparison tests, etc. It’s not what matters to your audience. They don’t notice that the t2i gets a little more camera noise when the lighting falls off on your character’s shoulder: only you and the other DPs do.
I’m sure your movie is going to look great no matter what you shoot on. Here’s some tips to make it even better.
Techies: Take a Screenwriting Class.
Even if you’re a camera hound, take a screenwriting class. Force yourself to create a story with just words and paper, no fancy camera or lighting equipment. Put some care into your story and your characters. Make us care about them, don’t just assume that because they are on screen we are suddenly going to like them. Share your experiences and workshop with other writers. Learn from the teachers. Experience writers block. Break through it. Create!
When consulting with new filmmakers, I often find they are working with weak scripts. It’s not that they are horrible writers. For the most part, it’s simply that they didn’t put the same care into their script as they did into getting the exact right look in Davinci Resolve. Often they work with first drafts. Simply telling them to re-examine and rewrite a scene often produces great results.
ReWriting is magical, and simple. Sometimes you don’t even have any sage advice or notes to work from. But looking at the script a second time ignites something new in your brain, and you will often find the weak points in your story or dialog.
Read Your Script Aloud to Friends
When Quentin Tarantino accepted the Oscar for Best Screenplay this year, he thanked his friends for listening to him read his scripts out loud. He didn’t thank them for all their notes and comments. But he thanked them for being “the space” or “the listening”. And it’s amazing.
Even a Master like Tarantino has to “test” his stories. There can be a huge disconnect between what you think is great in your mind and how it actually “lands” with an audience. If you read your script, even for a short film, to a group of people… you’ll get really clear on what works and what doesn’t. It’s a great reality check that will help you find the weak spots in your scripts and improve them.
Add Some Humor
Humor is one of the fastest and direct ways to engage an audience. This is particularly true if you aren’t shooting a comedy. The problem with many shorts is that they are way too serious, with not a single moment of levity. So even if you are shooting an action short or a drama, temper the intensity of the plot with at least one comedic beat. It doesn’t have to be a wild joke. Just think of Bruce Willis pausing to look at a Playboy pinup in “Die Hard” while he’s being chased by terrorists.
It helps connect the audience to your character, even if you don’t have time to develop them very much. If you don’t know how to do humor, find a writer who can and ask them to help “sweeten” your script. It happens in Hollywood all the time.
To learn more about how to make your movie with great visuals, an engaging storyline, and how to reach an audience directly, check out filmschoolsolution.com.
Two guys, one named Steven Spielberg and one named George Lucas, were quoted last week as saying the film industry as we know it would soon “implode”.
This is extremely important to you as an aspiring filmmaker, especially if you are considering investing $100,000 in a traditional film school and trying to go the “conventional” route towards a directing career.
What’s funny is that their comments were immediately met by backlash from a lot of other critics and bloggers questioning the sanity of this statement. After all, what the hell do these two guys really know about movies?
Fact is, two of our favorite filmmakers are actually very tuned in to the reality of the changing marketplace for cinema. So here’s a quick recap of what they mean by “implosion”.
In Plain English
What they are referring to is sustainability, scale, and the daily transformation of media consumption. Historically, consider that from the beginning of cinema until the 80s, the only place you could really get movies was in the theater. Then you had home video. Then cable TV. Then DVDs.
Now, you have Youtube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and hundreds of VOD options. The marketplace is expanding, production costs are dropping for indie movies and rising for studio movies.
Spielberg and Lucas paint a picture of a future where movies cost different amounts of money depending on their scale on budget. i.e. you’d pay $7 to see “Lincoln” and $25 to see “Iron Man 3″. They also imagine a future where theaters are decked out like sports stadiums and going to the movies is like paying to see a sporting event, with prices to match. They also imagine theaters offering more varied selections like tv stations.
Why an Implosion Means Opportunity for You
One thing everyone can agree upon is that studio movies continue to get more and more expensive, and are relying on franchises to recoup their budgets. That means Zack Snyder gets to helm “Superman” because he made money with “300”, even through he pretty much sucks as a storyteller. It means that a $200 budget on Superman is no big deal, so long as they are sure it will make $500 million in overseas, because what the hell… it’s SUPERMAN.
That also means the fantasy sold by film schools is becoming more and more ridiculous. Students spending their life savings to make a couple of short films and then hopefully get a job grabbing coffee for a working director are even more so on the ladder to nowhere (you can read more about this in my article on “above the line vs. below the line”). The spots available to direct studio movies become smaller and smaller, like trying to get a starting spot in the New York Yankees lineup.
The only way to even have a shot in hell of being taken seriously as a director isn’t to try and work your way up from below the line (which is like trying to become the King by working as a Paige), it’s to take advantage of the other side of this equation: the massive expansion of media outlets and the drop in production costs.
The next wave of directors won’t be from film schools, they rarely are. (For proof, just take a look at AFI’s list of working Director alumni. There are no grads listed past 2003, and most graduated in the 80s or 70s).
The next wave directors is already coming from people who skipped school, grabbed their own equipment, and started making their own projects right now. The director of the future will learn how to tell compelling stories and work with smart budgets, then reach their audience directly through the internet, build a fan base, and demonstrate their market value. They will then be able to leverage that to get more investment capital for future projects independently, or gain representation and begin competing for the increasingly competitive higher echelon jobs in Hollywood.
But hey, that’s not just my opinion. It’s just based on what a couple of guys said last week. So if you’re interested in having the film industry implode all around you while you try and figure out how to pay off your $100,000 in student loans, by all means head to a conventional film school.
But if you’d like to actually make your own movie, market it, and position yourself as a Director to be taken seriously, then make sure to check out filmschoolsolution.com and learn about our new course.