Advice about my studies in L.A. (3 replies)
my name is Salvatore Sclafani. I'm a Director and Cinematographer from Italy, and this year I'm going to get my BA in Cinematic studies.
I want to get my cinematography skills to the next level; right now I'm quite confident about my ability (I shot different short films which got into a few film festivals in Italy) but I know that studyng in the USA (specifically L.A.) could be a great thing for me. What I really need is to get to know how things work in bigger sets. My university had a mainly theoretical approac and I had to learn every practical aspect of working on the field by myself. Right know I think I miss a lot of knowledge about lighting setups, about how to manage different light sources and shape them. I've always shot on entry level digital cameras (DSLR's, Canon C Series) but never on professional cameras like Alexa, Red or even on film. I would like to know how to read an exposimeter and expose film. I would like to know how to better manage the dynamic range of my camera and why I should get my skintones to some specific level of IRE (I do that with my eye but I know somewhere there are people who knows the right way to do that, and know why it is the right way).
I'm thinking about different options but I would like to get a MFA somewhere in L.A., problem is I don't want to hamper my work by spending too much time in school (some programmes are 3-4 years long); I already spent a lot of time studying and now I would like to SHOOT and move around. So... Is there any MFA, 1 or 2 years long, you advice me to apply for in L.A.? I've read about Art Center College of Design's two year program, but I'm not quite sure about it.
Another option would be not to get a MFA and spend my money taking classes and workshops instead.
What do you think would be better?
I notice no one has replied to your post yet. I hope someone can help here as I have limited knowledge of available classes in LA.
If money and time is a concern, I would forgo a degree all together. I've never been in a single situation where having my degree in film has helped me. If you can make your way to LA then use your money to live here as long as possible and find jobs any way you can. Helping out on student projects at AFI, USC, UCLA, and indie productions will do wonders to get your network going.
You can see what people do on large, expensive sets by becoming a Production Assistant on commercials. Working on different productions will give you an idea of how each production type operates and where you will fit in. You determine your network: if you only work commercial jobs, you will get offers in advertisement not features. It sucks starting out because everyone and their brother wants to work in Hollywood. If you get to set early, stay late, and give 110% in-between, then you will get hired again and move on up.
If you REALLY want to take classes, the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) offers classes with the best cinematographers in the business as well as an absolutely fantastic magazine that you can learn a lot from. You can get the magazine in print or digital for a small price and while you're at it you can get ICG Magazine and Film and Digital Times. As for specific lighting approaches, IRE numbers for skin tones, etc., Shane Hurlbut ASC has an educational program called "Shane's Inner Circle". It's a low-cost way to understand the technical aspects of film, but at the end of the day the only way to craft YOUR look and develop your skill is to work on set. You don't need a lot of money to make a great looking film. If you have a solid location, sunlight, and some lens options then everything else is just creative problem solving.
Thanks for your advice, it is super helpful. Right now unfortunately I don't have a working visa, so I can't work in the US, I can just visit. I think I'll apply for a student visa since I would really love to get some kind of degree.