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05/18/2001 - Film Schools

How to Produce Movies for Television

"The road to success is always under construction."


Film Schools

What they teach :

Film schools have been around for a long time. For example, New York University (NYU) has been teaching film courses for the past thirty years. So, they must be doing something right.

Most film schools focus on production - the "nuts and bolts" involved in making a movie. And they adapt to the times. No more flatbeds. They're being replaced with Final Cut Pro Systems, Avid Systems. Technological innovations demand that the schools keep up with current industry needs.

However, the basic core fundamentals still apply. ?Feet and frames'are still the core elements as a starting point for understanding the moving image arts. And storytelling will always have its place with the need to incorporate a viable beginning, middle, and ending.

Super-8 movie cameras used to be the modus operandi of the day. Now it's a dinosaur.
Digital cameras and video editing equipment have taken over. Film editors loved being able to hold film in their hands and to touch the celluloid while editing on an upright Moviola or a six-pan flatbed, cutting together the footage that was shot earlier in the day to create a fluid image, bringing a story to life.

The "quick-cut" MTV technique seems to be in vogue along with the use of home video equipment. And High Definition is definitely "in."

The medium of choice is still 35 because it offers more information on the screen. And film is still a collaborative effort. That hasn't changed and never will.

Discipline is also important to successful filmmaking. There's a discipline that must be applied to one's craft because it influences an artist. Filmmaking is a technical art and craft is an integral part of it.

NYU's "Sight and Sound Film" class is one of their most popular because it approaches the fundamentals of filmmaking. The NYU film school continues to be one of the best. They have a staff of sixty. The "Sight and Sound Film" course includes 32 students and a teacher. They form into crews of four (eight crews of four) and each student makes five short b&w, reversal films. A crew of four translates into twenty films.The course is run like a boot camp and the students bond as crew members, emerging from this course ready to take on the real world of filmmaking.

At the Film Division of the Columbia University School of the Arts they run a film festival every spring. They select the best of the student films and not only present awards, they let the industry know about the films. Columbia representatives bring two days of films to Los Angeles and screen them for industry professionals.

USC School of Cinema-Television is highly respected. Their graduates permeate the industry. In fact, they're jokingly referred to as ?the USC Mafia.' There's a running indusry gag about USC film grads: "If all of the USC grads went on strike on a single day, Hollywood would close down." George Lucas and Robert Zemekis are just two
of the many well known USC film grads.

American Film Institute (AFI) is also another place worth knowing about. They offer a variety of courses for aspiring filmmakers.

What Film Schools Don't Teach

The emphasis has been on production and the technical aspects of filmmaking from the perspective of writing, producing, and directing.

Unfortunately, film schools don't teach producers how to effectively sell projects. It isn't enough in today's world to know the practical aspects of filmmaking. Savvy producers must also be able to know how to identify good material, keep abreast of industry trends and to understand the mechanics of acquiring, developing, and selling properties. Effective producing skills include understanding how to deal with the ever-changing marketplace. Successful producers need to not only know how agents and managers function; they must also know how to interact with them. And, they must learn how to deal with television and motion picture development executives, publicity and marketing people, internet opportunities, merchandising and ancillary markets.

Summing up: Film schools need to offer courses that will equip their students to be prepared for all situations-- both in front of and behind the camera.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtul, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead


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