My take on going to Film School, I went to one of the best film schools in the country so I have an opinion. They are a GREAT place to learn the basics, the do’s and the don’ts of filmmaking. If you are wanting to be a director, producer, cinematographer, gaffer, or an editor, or an art director, you really need to go for that reason. BUT! After you’ve learned the basics, you’ve built some confidence and know how to run a set and work safely… practical application is how you get better at this. You learn from doing in this business.
I look at films now with a very critical eye. I see a lot of basic mistakes being made that separate filmmakers into two categories, professional vs. amateur. Most of the mistakes I see are in short films. I blame most of those mistakes on the director and the cinematographer. They are the two who are ultimately responsible for what you are seeing on the screen.
Horrible composition and the lack of coverage are the two biggest problems. And it’s because you don’t know what you’re doing. Another big problem is static shots. They are the most boring lazy shot in film making. And they should only be used in certain situations. PERIOD!
It’s called a motion picture camera and it’s not just because it captures what’s moving. It moves too and when a filmmaker is moving his camera around in dolly, jib, stabilizer, shoulder mounted or just hand held in a scene. That’s being a professional film maker. That’s how professionals work.
Directors are also supposed to direct their actors when they need it. If you haven’t learned how to do that correctly and do it with purpose… then you need too. It just kills me when I see a film that has a pretty good story and decent acting all ruined by poor directing and cinematography.
Actors are a whole story unto their own. But it’s the responsibility of the director to cast correctly. There is an art form to directing actors. You learn how to do that and how to communicate with an actor in film school and through experience only. I started as an actor so directing actors comes easy for me because I can relate to them on their terms.
So in conclusion, go learn the basics if you don’t know them. I’m not saying that if you cant go to film school, for whatever reason to give up. NO! If you’re passionate about making movies, try and work with people who can teach you something every time you make a film. When I’m making my films, I’m usually the most inexperienced person “above the line crew” on set. I want to work with people who know more than me and can teach me something…the little tricks of the trade and the things you never thought of.
It takes experience to learn these things. You can’t put a price on someone’s knowledge and experience. That’s how you’ll get better, that’s how you will evolve from an amateur filmmaker into a professional one.
That’s my take and advice.