Angry Film Student Inadvertently Proves My Point

I received an interesting and aggressive comment today, as I sometimes do from film students who become defensive against what I am saying. This film student started out attacking the validity of what I am saying on the site and then went on to prove my point. I have responded to each point below.angryfilmstudent

Um… so let me get this straight… you’re basically asking us to drop our classes (by the way, I go to an extremely respected film school with a huge success rate, modern equipment and can list names of students who have graduated and worked on films made in the last two years… like The Avengers) and instead, come flock to your side and listen to your pearly gems of wisdom?

Absolutely. I’m sure you will get much more practical knowledge from what I have to share than you will in your $30,000 plus a year program. However, you seem to have an extremely arrogant attitude, and that leads me to believe that you’d be pretty resistant to anything valuable I might have to teach.

And what do you mean by success rate? Do you mean the number of graduates who have found entry level crew or assistant positions on film sets along side their colleagues who never went to school? That is great!

I’m sorry, you are…? I mean, if I’m to take a single thing you say seriously, I think one of your biggest selling points should probably be showing us just how many Hollywood films you’ve directed. Because as far as I can tell (using magic and whatnot), you’ve never even stepped foot inside of a production lot. You seriously cannot call yourself a filmmaker and try to persuade people to listen to you as an alternative to a school with fact sheets of successful students when you can’t even show us a single thing that says you’ve succeeded. Owning a camera and hosting a website doesn’t show us that you made it. It shows us that you are bitter about the education you hoped would make you something big and didn’t. That’s not the case for everyone, and I cannot, in good conscience, listen to a person speak about how to succeed in filmmaking when they themselves have not.

I’d be very careful with your attitude as you set out in this industry. You never know who someone is, or what they have done, and it’s best not to as they say “burn bridges” by lashing out baseless insults. I was crewing while you were probably in Middle School, and negotiating contracts and raising investment capital before you were in film school.

My position is, like all progressive opinions that question a long accepted belief, bound to push some buttons, but it’s not personal. I’m simply voicing a reality that is not widely known outside of the industry.

That said, I never claimed to be a famous Hollywood Director, nor is such an accomplishment any indication of one’s ability to help young filmmakers get a powerful start beyond “the bottom of the ladder”. I consciously chose to take the time out to educate young filmmakers about the realities of working in the business, so they don’t end up deeply in debt and uncertain about how to proceed towards a directing career. I am a Consultant and a Teacher; I help others achieve their goals with practical advice,. You can ask any of the over 200 students I have helped so far.

A few things…

First; Wes Craven already had eight films under his wing before doing ‘Nightmare.’ In fact, ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ is generally considered to be a pop culture hit and that was seven years before Krueger was even born. Second; Kevin Smith had a hit with ‘Clerk’s’, but he didn’t know that when he made it. In fact, had the movie flopped, he would have been screwed since he maxed out a handful of credit cards just to make the film. It was a HUGE risk on his part and he got lucky.

Thank you for clarifying the point on Wes Craven. “Nightmare” wasn’t his first feature. You sure showed me. My point is that he had to hustle and struggle to get it made, after which time and it’s performance he was then able to make “connections”, and that it wasn’t his “connections” that led to his success.

Kevin Smith did take a big risk to make “Clerks”. But he didn’t “just get lucky”. There were elements to his process and his movie that made it successful. Including the hiring of a brilliant Sales Agent. The exact process of selling the movie was outlined in the book “Spike, Mike, Slackers, and Dykes”.

Don’t you think it’s wise to study his success and see what you can potentially learn about making a low budget feature length movie and leveraging it towards a career, rather than dismissing it as “luck”? I do.

Third; Film schools do short films because the thesis project is graded by a review board and a class generally doesn’t consist of one or two people. A feature length film graded by say, five people, and submitted for review by a hopeful graduating class of even 200 students would literally take weeks and all they are looking for is whether or not the student learned the things they were taught.

You’re right. At NYU and AFI, students paying $40,000 a year in tuition do have to submit their thesis ideas before a committee to get approved to shoot it. Students who aren’t approved don’t get to direct, they have to serve as crew on other student’s films, even though they are still paying full tuition. Following the same procedure with a feature film would be a nightmare.

If only there was a way for a human being to shoot a movie without getting permission from a review board and paying $40,000 a year in tuition? Unfortunately, there is no other way.

And finally; short films DO make money and MANY big name directors do them often. Shorts done on YouTube are a completely different breed and shouldn’t even be compared to directors or film students.

Please provide an example of a business model whereby short films produce income. I, and the rest of the financial sector of the film industry, would be very interested to know. I would also be interested in knowing what big name directors regularly make shorts as part of their professional career.

Also, most film schools do, in fact, teach students about promoting and adapting to feature length.

Financing is mentioned, but since a financier is typically a very wealthy person (or company) with the means to back a multi-million dollar feature film, the likelihood of a fresh faced film student getting financed is slim to none since it’s already a well known fact that ALL film students will start at the bottom of the food chain when matriculated into the industry.

If you’re serious about working in any industry, don’t you think that the financial element should be more than merely “mentioned”? Furthermore, are you aware of the advances not only in digital technology, but in media consumption and distribution, that have changed the way people watch movies and pay for them, and the impact that has had on film production costs and how they are sold?

Even if it still did require millions of dollars to produce a quality feature film, don’t you think the path to procuring that investment capital should be a main topic of study? These are the kinds of things we discuss in my course. How to get a movie made intelligently and with a smart budget, how to build an audience directly, and how to leverage your projects to potential investors.

I am not famous, but I have had strangers write me checks for $20,000+ for movie projects. And that’s a skill that every young filmmaker should learn how to do, if they want to direct. However, as you say…

A film student is NOT a director in every case and not every director that is a film student wants to make feature films. Some of us want to do documentaries, music videos, artistic films, broadcast journalism, etc. More than one career exists with a degree in Film, and since most of us focus very little on directing and more on the production aspect, it’s very likely many of us will go on to do everything BUT direct.

I think you just proved my point. My program is specifically for people who want to direct feature films. In hundreds of conversations with aspiring filmmakers these last 5 years, I’ve learned one thing: most people want to direct, but they aren’t trained how!

And you’re absolutely right. Most film students will end up doing everything but directing. 

I think you said it better than I ever could. Thanks! 🙂

If you are reading this, and you’d like to learn how to have a career directing movies and not start out at the bottom of the food chain, visit




  1. Thanks Seth,

    Many students have certain ideas before, during and after film school. I was one of them. But learned better.

    I got into film well after my college years. I did not go to a prestigious school. It was more of a trade school that taught film. They focused a little on the art form, but mostly they focused on the technical aspects (grip, gaffer, camera etc). The purpose was to merely get us employed in the industry. A lot of us gave up early or went on to do something completely different. I went into Post-Production and found a footing since then as an Assistant Editor.

    I read somewhere online that there are now more film students out there trying to “make it” in the industry then there are lawyers. I thought it was ironic and funny.

    I loved your article. And hopefully you helped that young student by pointing him in a better direction. I think what you’re doing is great. We all need advice from time to time, especially from the more experienced, like yourself in this industry.

    I’m looking forward to the webinar.



  2. Thanks for sharing.

    This is hilarious. It’s embarrassing we have students with that attitude – being a student myself, I sure know the ones!

    • Ha ha, thanks Charlie. Glad you understand. Where are you a student and have you had a chance to check out the Film School Solution webinar?

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