Is This Really What a $40,000 Film School Film Looks Like?

NYU and USC are considered to be the most prestigious film schools in the entire country, if not the world. At $42,000 a year in tuition alone, its costly to be a student at one of these film schools. What specific instructions are students receiving at these schools, and what are they producing? Most people are floored when they find out.

Let’s begin at the beginning. The two share a very similar curriculum and approach to teaching young filmmakers about the craft. After a full year of non filmmaking NYU students take a course called “Sight and Sound: Film”. USC Students take a course called “310”. The courses are virtually the same, and have been copied by New York Film Academy and any other school that still offers film based filmmaking.

The main ingredients are an Arri-S camera (or Bolex) and 16mm black and white reversal film. Reversal film is cheap, like slide film, in that the film that goes inside the camera is the film that actually gets developed and printed. There is no negative.

Students are taught how to load their cameras and use a light meter in about an hour. They are then sent out to their city/campus and told to shoot a variety of “exercises”. Several of the films are silent, with no sound allowed. The latter films allow “non synch” sound. Here are some examples. This is a Sight and Sound Film from NYU:

and this a film from class 310 at USC:

And this is a similar one from New York Film Academy’s $18,000 a semester course:

And that’s how to make a $40,000 short film in black and white: by going to film school.

If you’d like to make an old school film without taking out a loan, here’s how.

First off, know that the Arri-S is not manufactured anymore. Its debut as a cutting edge technology was back around 1960, and hasn’t been used in the film industry since then. It’s only users are… film students. Like these.

Film schools have bought out most of the remaining supply of cameras to give to their students. But, in New York City or LA you can rent one elsewhere for about $150 a day. You can go to Brooklyn and check out Hit and Run Productions.

Google  “16mm reversal film”. Buy a roll, and you can rent a light meter for $10 and some lights for under $50. Ask the guys at the production house how to use the light meter and load the film. Go out, shoot your film, and then go to to have it developed and put on a mini-DV tape. Edit it on your home computer. Done.

Of course, if you’d like to start making movies with color and sound, you might want to buy an HD camera, get Final Cut, and learn about After Effects. You will miss out on whatever artistic lessons a film student gets by spending a year’s salary making black and white movies with no sound. But then again, you may just make something people actually want to watch. For more insight check out Film School Secrets.

One comment

  1. And here’s why you SHOULD go to film school. I’d appreciate your feedback.

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