Movies, Film Schools and On Set


Ok so you want to be a filmmaker, what’s the next step?  I’ve mentioned in other posts that watching movies is a good start and it’s always good to appreciate films but have you given it a go?  It’s a different kettle of fish watching and making a movie. I will admit as a filmmaker we all need to watch films at any chance we can as it exposes us to new trends and ways that movies are made. It keeps us fresh and on the ball and also provides us with great inspiration, it’s healthy. If you’ve got the time go out and pick your favourite genres of movies and find a stack of films within that genre from old to modern and watch them. Don’t worry if they are black and white films, told slowly or told quickly or even really bad in all areas you are going to learn a heap regardless of whether the production is hot or not.  Also remember you need to remain an audience member when making movies and what better way to do this than watching movies.  More on this point later.

Film schools or working on set?

Both have a place and are beneficial in every respect.  You need to decide whether you want to pursue both or maybe just one – remember there is no right or wrong way.  Film schools are a great way to learn how to make movies if you need structure and deadlines in reaching goals. A film school will put you in touch with like minded people who share the same interests in film, it’s great for networking which can inevitably lead to strong filmmaking relationships in years to come. Film schools also provide you with access to all the latest camera, lighting and editing equipment which you can have hands on experience with. Best thing is most film schools allow you to loan the equipment outside of school hours when it is not being used – so you can very well use it on your own personal productions, now that’s kind of cool!  Be sure to exploit your time at film school if you decide to choose this pathway, remember you are paying a fair amount of money to attend the school. Make sure you are at every class and learn, learn, learn. Be sure to also figure out who are the serious filmmakers within the class as well, beware of the ones that are all talk but have never even made a film before coming into film school. They may drag you down. There’s a point! Make sure you have made some films before you go into film school – don’t expect to just rock up and think you are going to learn everything about making movies there and then. Show initiative and take the plunge yourself.

One good tip before enrolling yourself in a film school is to research the film school you have chosen right down to the nitty gritty. I know this sounds a little full on but you want to be sure you are enrolling in a course that’s going to offer you the best that it can. At the end of the day you are the only one who can get the most out of any course you enroll in.  (Lecturers and course work can only offer you so much but you need to take those extra steps.) You need to figure out what your course will provide you before enrolling. Go to film school open days, interrogate the lecturers and talk to students currently enrolled, even track down ex students to see where they are now and what they thought about the film school. This is going to be your investment for a brighter future.  I didn’t go to film school, most of my friends thought I did, fresh out of high school I enrolled into a university and took on a Bachelor of Arts degree studying Screen Studies. I was under the impression this would involve making films, in some ways it did and other ways it didn’t. I was a little ill informed. A university degree obviously offers you a choice of subjects you must study and is heavily theory based. The course work I studied in Screen Studies at university was heavily focussed on the theory side of film where analytical studies into Freud and how this was instilled in film popped up. This was way over my head and I thought at the time what the hell does this have to do with filmmaking and do filmmakers even consider this when making a movie?  Any practical hands on filmmaking where we got to touch a camera or use an edit suite was a minor subject. I don’t believe enrolling myself in this course was a total waste of my time. I learnt valuable skills and met some individuals who I began making films with outside of university course work. It was a process and a pathway. I do wish I would have been immersed in the practical and creative side of filmmaking each day though. This is where you guys reading this have room to get the best out of the pathway you choose and if you are paying hard earned cash or even a trust fund on an expensive course you will want to get the right amount of bang for your buck.

Whichever way you choose you are bound to move down the pathway to filmmaking one way or another. Now if you would rather take that money you could spend on film school on making your own films then do so. I do strongly suggest getting some on set experience first before taking the plunge then start getting serious about making your own short films.  Working on set is extremely valuable as it opens you up to the ins and outs of how a film set is run and the etiquette of carrying yourself on a production. After university I worked under a number of cinematographers and gaffers on short and feature films. It was here that I learnt a number of skills in lighting, how to focus pull, how to treat fellow crew members and how a set is run. I think every filmmaker starting out should experience what it is like on a film set, it may even lead you to finding that role in a production that you will pursue for the rest of your career.

One way or another though making coffee and working your way up the crew ladder will take some time and at some stage you will have to branch away and freelance yourself out in whatever chosen field you choose. Whether you decide to become a cinematographer or editor for instance you will need to move on from that assistant role and go out on your own which naturally will happen if you work hard enough. Yeah fair enough you are going to make loads of contacts just like you would going to film school, you may even be able to network with some fine creative people that can offer their services to your first short film that could make it look and exceed all expectations. But what if you are yearning just to make your own films and you think there is only so much you can learn on set?

Well then it is time to go out and start making your own movies!!

Until next time!

Keep shooting!


Leave A Response