Film Talk

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Is it better to network and source outside of Film School? (6 replies and 11 comments)

FrenchProductions1
1 month ago
FrenchProductions1 1 month ago

My main concern with breaking into the industry has been... do I spend £19,000-£22,000 on a 2 Year course at a prestigious university doing an MA In Cinematography or a related discipline?

Or should I spend my time and money outside of Film school, using the money I'd spend on a school to purchase top spec camera's, equipment, and network through events and online groups?

Has anyone or is anyone in this scenario, is it a risk?

The reason I ask if it could be a potential risk is because, could someone endeavouring into the industry on the ''out of film school'' basis be exposed to a very slower process than lets say going to the NFTS Where industry standard equipment is provided as well as the highest calibre lecturers, what would someone with solid topics do to get exposure out of... Film School

Miguel C.
1 month ago
Miguel C. 1 month ago

Do not purchase top spec film equipment right now, you don't need it. 
A good jeweler can make a masterpiece out of scrap, but a bad jeweler can't make anything out of solid gold.
Hone your skills, create create create, put your stuff online, and pray pray pray! 

The Byre
1 month ago
The Byre 1 month ago

This is the hardest question for anybody to answer and it is the one question that every would-be actor, cinematographer, director, sound engineer, etc. asks again and again.

I work in audio and if a person is able to get into the Surrey Uni Tonmeister course and pass, then he or she is guaranteed a job.  These are the very best sound people around.  They have to be able to play two instruments and have completed a five-year course covering every aspect of sound engineering for music, film and anything else associated with those fields.

The German original Tonmeister course accredited by the Verein Deutscher Tonmester is even harder and students usually attend a top music conservatory for a year in advance, just so that they can pass the entrance exam.  Again - a good job awaits those that stick the course!

The three great advantages of attending a top Uni course or school are (1) you get a complete and fully-rounded education covering all the bits that, were you to try to self-educate, you may miss out.  You get a complete education.  (2)  You network with other students that in later years will become lasting friends and help your career, just as you may help them.  (3)  Employers and others within the industry looking for fresh talent look at these Unis and schools first.  When Abbey Road or any other top studio is looking for a new engineer, they ask their present (ex-Tonmeister grad) who is good and looking for a job.  

The big disadvantage of a formalised education is the cost!  When I was a youngster and still had hair (around 49BC) a good education was free.  Now it costs an arm and a leg and sometimes even bits in-between.  Yes, one can get a student loan and the truth is that most of these loans never get paid back in full and a large number never get paid back at all, i.e. not a penny.  But it puts young people (especially those from poorer backgrounds) off the idea of getting an education and that is to the detriment of society in general.  

But Miguel C. speaks the truth when he states, "Do not purchase top-spec film equipment right now, you don't need it."

I got a cheap Panasonic bridge camera yesterday, brand-spanking-new, for just £300 + VAT (the FZ1000) and it does everything one needs to make basic films in good technical quality - I kid you not!  A camera that costs less than a GoPro produces images that are astonishingly good! 

Yes, a S35 film camera with prime lenses is better and looks sexier, but you will need a great deal more than just that one piece of kit to get going.  Add a recording device, add an on-camera monitor and a larger (calibrated!) monitor for the director.  Add dolly and jib, lights and a truck to move all that guff!  You speak of a 'top-spec' camera, but that requires a team to run the damn thing and a top-spec camera plus lenses plus all the other bits and pieces will run to at least half-a-million Euros!  

And as soon as you have bought that camera, it is nearly worthless.  Nothing falls in value as fast as digital equipment!  

I would buy cheaper stuff like a DSLR and a decent zoom lens, download DaVinci-Resolve and buy a good tripod and get cracking, making little projects to find your talent.  If you are looking for a career, a really good film school will pay dividends but is no guarantee of success.

Remember that as soon as you pick up a camera you are a film-maker.  You should be making films now - every day!  I made my first film at the age of 12, using my father's S8 Kodak wind-up camera featuring our two dogs and the cat.  

Filming was interrupted after some of the more difficult scenes when the cast objected and bit the director!

 

Mike
1 month ago

Panasonic FZ1000, now thats an impressive camera for the money you can do a lot with that. You will need a matrix box on top for headphone use or a SD premix and then you can do some serious damage. Good choice imo.

The Byre
1 month ago

My wife wanted a simple and easy-to-use snapshot camera. £300 plus VAT and a 1" sensor - seemed about right. She is now going through 350 pages of the manual - trying to work out what shutter-speeds, LUTs and ISOs are! I tried it out yesterday and was amazed at the levels of sophistication and possibilities - you can do a direct feed into something like an Atamos box and it has audio in and out.

Mike
1 month ago

Bet you can’t wait to strap it to your helmet and leap out of that Hercules. Not sure how long you get on video mode.

David M
1 month ago

Wow a Panasonic FZ1000. First digital camera I owned was a DVX-100. 🙂 But it was enough to start a career with at the time!

Agree with everyone else: don’t buy a high end camera unless you have the work that will pay for it and the support that goes with it, and I’ll add that I personally also wouldn’t buy a particular camera just to get work (unless you want to start a rental business).

Mike
1 month ago

Wise words.

Wouter
1 month ago
Wouter 1 month ago

for me personally, it's a no-brainer. University is mostly subsidised in Belgium but I still dropped out of film school because it was quicker and easier for me to learn by myself using the internet and "internships". 

Considering the cost of film school where you're at, I wouldn't hesitate to invest that money into myself. 

Having said that, some people are more suited to grow in a university/group setting whereas other people would benefit more from the solitary approach. 

So if I were you I would ask the question: "do I do well in groups or am I more oriented to doing things on my own terms?"  

Wouter
1 month ago

And I think it is a misconception that taking the solitary approach is more difficult. For me it was actually much harder to adhere to the "rules" of the film school. I didn't feel happy there. Which resulted in me having no motivation.

But the first time I stepped on a real set and was told to do a job, I thrived! It was hard but I did have fun. And later I started shooting things by myself. Again, it's hard, because you're on your own, but I had fun.

So if you like doing things on your own, skipping film school would actually be the easy option. But if you don't like doing things on your own, I would say film school might be better for you.

Wouter
1 month ago

Part of the reason I didn't like film school was the social aspect of it. On the one hand you had to please your teachers. Please the teachers, get good grades and enjoy all of the perks that come with it. And on the other hand there was this undertone of competition among the students. A sort of rivalry. Some people do very well in such an environment, but me personally, I couldn't deal with it. My relationships with the other students didn't feel real. It was all an exchange, a quid pro quo. There was this culture of talking behind people's backs, a lot of backstabbing and such.

Much like a TV high school drama.

Wouter
1 month ago

At the school I went, about 33% of the teachers were film industry burn outs. Another 33% were simply incompetent. And the actual 33% that were good had much difficulty themselves with how management was running the school.

About 50% of the stuff we had to memorise was a complete waste of time. I agree that one has to study the old fundamentals of image and sound... but to waste your time on memorising this stuff is just silly IMO. It has no practical use whatsoever.

Due to limited availability of equipment, I suppose they have to find a way to keep the students busy. And when there actually was something practical to do, you didn't learn much because they were just showing you stuff and then left you to figure it out on your own because there were too much students per teacher. Whereas on a real set, you get a very personalised education from your head of department. Sure they have their own style and particular way of doing things, but the personal approach to transferring experience is simply superior to the film school approach.

Learning the craft isn't about memorising a set of rules. It is about re-configuring your mind in way that it becomes efficient at solving problems. On set, every day is different problem. And there is some benefit to mastering a single approach. But never ever can you just stick to it. Due to all sorts of problems you have to be quick on your feet and be able to think outside the box to solve problems you haven't quite encountered before.

Wouter
1 month ago

And also, some students had very rich parents. So they had a lot more budget to shoot their projects. This resulted in everyone wanting to work with them so they always had the best crews. Their works looked slightly better and many of the teachers didn't have the discernment to tell good filmmaking from bad filmmaking.

I even once shot a project for a guy whose mother wrote the script of his film school project. And if that wasn't enough, somehow they managed to get the roles played by famous Belgian actors. And I can tell you, these people do not work for free. 

And at our school, there was a selection process. Only the "best" students were allowed to go to next year and get first picks at choosing their study department.

So yeah, there was a lot of "cheating".

So yeah, after two years I decided to no longer waste my time there.

But yeah, it's not for everyone. Some people are really good in such environments. You just have to figure it out for yourself.

K.Wasley
1 month ago
K.Wasley 1 month ago

I think in the UK unless you are going to the nfts for the MA cinematography course it’s not worth the £20k. A lot of courses will be multi-disciplinary and you can learn faster by reading online and shooting. The other courses will i’m sure be a great experience and good for meeting some people but are they worth the money? It’s so expensive to study that unless you are very wealthy the course has to be excellent and specialise in cinematography to make it worth the cost. I know several DoP’s who made their way up using dslr’s and just shooting as much as they could. 

The Byre
1 month ago
The Byre 1 month ago

At the school I went, about 33% of the teachers were film industry burn outs. Another 33% were simply incompetent. And the actual 33% that were good had much difficulty themselves with how management was running the school.

Unfortunately, that applies to all these second-rate vocational courses.  All too often, the most clueless git in the room is the lecturer!

I think in the UK unless you are going to the nfts for the MA cinematography course it’s not worth the £20k.

This!  (Health warning - just my opinion!)

We had one boy who came to us on a work-experience plan who had studied and had a BSc in 'Music Technology'.  He did not know how electricity works, could not solder, could not read a circuit diagram and could not read music.

That poor sap had a science degree (and it was a 2.1) in Music Technology and at no point had he studied or received any tuition in either music or technology.  (At least he came away from his time here at Byre Towers understanding the basics of electronics and musical structure and I got the sad impression that he learnt more here in three months than he did in three years of uni!)

Perhaps some part-time courses at the NFTS or a similar institution, combined with intensive film making could be the answer.

K.Wasley
1 month ago

Yes and I would also add that in order to get the most out of the nfts cinematography course ideally you would have shot several small projects, know your way around cameras and lighting equipment, have a good understanding of lighting principles, know the way the world works in terms of collaboration and on set politics and have plenty of talent and potential. So a good amount of real world experience is really beneficial when going to any good course anyway, so my advice would be to shoot as much as you can before considering studying cinematography.

Mike
1 month ago

“On set politics” No Really!!

The Byre
1 month ago
The Byre 1 month ago

So a good amount of real world experience is really beneficial when going to any good course anyway, so my advice would be to shoot as much as you can before considering studying cinematography.

Wise words indeed - one of the signs of a good vocational degree course is that they do not accept students without a good show-reel.

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