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Max Field

New Filmschool Ponderings

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So recently a student of ASU contacted me saying that the media/film department was using one of my tutorial Youtube videos on ADR to teach the students during the audio portion of the curriculum. I put this video out for zero charge and have made zero dollars from advertisements on the video itself.

 

Keep in mind I've never attended a film program and a film program is using what I made to teach their customers.

 

So 2 big questions ran through my head...

Why are people paying for this program when they're just using free resources to teach them? Who knows what other free resources the students are being given.

What USA film programs are left in the year 2018 that actually prepare kids for real cinema workflow?

 

This may be a tricky discussion as some people here are fresh out of school and others have not attended in 20+ years.

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Film school is an odd beast. The only consistent problem most professionals have with film school is it's cost, otherwise most programs do generally prepare students to work on set. That being said, Film School (just like any other area of college) is only as good as the effort you put into it.

 

Professors using internet videos, like essays or tutorials, seldom rely on that as the only teaching material. When I went to Columbia College, half of my classes would play a tutorial video or essay at least twice a month. The length of these videos are usually 10 minutes and the professor would then elaborate on the subject. In essence, their using it as supplemental material just like the textbook required/recommended by the school/professor.

 

There is a lot of free resources online, and one can certainly learn just as much as film school can teach, but going to film school is much more than attending class; it's shooting projects, meeting peers and alumni, making mistakes, and building up a portfolio.

 

What programs actually prepare students? I believe it's hard to say which ones don't because most schools market themselves as up-to-date with industry equipment. Add in part-time teachers who are typically professionals in-between work and I'd bet most schools do prepare students.

 

The "x" factors are cost and motivation. If one can't afford a particular school, then putting themselves into debt is a bad idea. If one doesn't work hard and apply themselves in school, then no amount of money or quality of education will prepare them for the working world.

 

---

 

I'd like to state for the record my personal belief in attending college:

 

Get the bachelor's degree you can afford.

 

Higher education has been proven to benefit any individual's career success in any field. However, debt from school can be detrimental to a student's success, so I recommend ignoring the name/prestige of a school and focus on the one you can afford. Once in school, work your ass off in and outside of class. Shoot as much as you can, meet as many people as you can, and make mistakes. The film industry, in particular, does not care where you got your degree (or what degree you have). They do care about your work ethic, portfolio, and connections; all three of which are not dependent on the school or degree you have.

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going to film school is much more than attending class; it's shooting projects, meeting peers and alumni, making mistakes, and building up a portfolio.

This is the part I keep getting hung up on. In the mid-2000's and back I'm sure universities were a great way of getting your hands on certain things, but digital equipment is cheap and software is free. Everyone is always on the internet naturally so their network is no longer limited to whoever lives within a 40 mile radius.

 

If it was 1989, I'd be the first in line to attend film school.

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I don't know what to tell you Macks. August Coppola at SF State tended to hire personnel for the department who were professionally accomplished and had a real passion or love of the area. I think all but one were veterans in some capacity, and for the production department it was mostly hands on training. I can't imagine any one of my old instructors telling me to log onto some site to stream a video to learn X, Y and Z. I would think this would be more of a student faculty issue than anything you would be or should be worried about.

 

The most videos can do is teach you mechanics, maybe a little basics in art, but they can't teach you taste nor artistic dexterity that comes with innate talent and experience. If anything, if you're hard up for a job that is, send a letter of thanks to the university in question, and tack your resume onto it with a note saying your available for hire.

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The elite film schools like USC, California State University at Long Beach (both in the Los Angeles, California area) as well as some others provide not only practical filmmaking knowledge but also a pipeline into the Hollywood Industry, if thats what your goal is. They provide access to the system. They teach the business of filmmaking. They also teach, as I've stated in another recent post, self responsibility. Expectations run high in our business and a good film school sets those high standards into motion early on. The nuts and bolts of learning the gear and how to cut a scene together are purely academic and comes in second place. If you're in film school, you have to learn the ABCs of filmmaking. The real lessons are what to do with those ABCs, how to exploit those ABCs and how to take advantage of the program's unique networking possibilities. Those were my experiences at least. Getting into a great film school was hard but staying in film school for the duration was much harder. The weeding out process of students who couldn't make the cut was brutal.

 

G

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The elite film schools like USC, California State University at Long Beach (both in the Los Angeles, California area) as well as some others provide not only practical filmmaking knowledge but also a pipeline into the Hollywood Industry

Would NYU also be a worthy school to add to the list?

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Would NYU also be a worthy school to add to the list?

 

It's a great school but it doesn't teach the Hollywood Industry filmmaking. It's more of an art film program from what I understand. The entire New York film industry is vastly different from the Hollywood industry. It's hard to explain but I work in both and I feel qualified to say this.

 

G

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The elite film schools like USC, California State University at Long Beach (both in the Los Angeles, California area) as well as some others provide not only practical filmmaking knowledge but also a pipeline into the Hollywood Industry, if thats what your goal is. They provide access to the system. They teach the business of filmmaking. They also teach, as I've stated in another recent post, self responsibility. Expectations run high in our business and a good film school sets those high standards into motion early on. The nuts and bolts of learning the gear and how to cut a scene together are purely academic and comes in second place. If you're in film school, you have to learn the ABCs of filmmaking. The real lessons are what to do with those ABCs, how to exploit those ABCs and how to take advantage of the program's unique networking possibilities. Those were my experiences at least. Getting into a great film school was hard but staying in film school for the duration was much harder. The weeding out process of students who couldn't make the cut was brutal.

 

G

I will second this as a graduate of a 90's era art film program at SUNY Purchase. Film school may teach you everything about how to make a film and yet nothing about how to get a film made. USC is a notable exception in this arena.

 

One need only watch the documentary Misfire about the rise and fall of The Shooting Gallery. Purchase Alumni to get a sense of exactly what can go wrong.

Edited by Michael LaVoie

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This is the part I keep getting hung up on. In the mid-2000's and back I'm sure universities were a great way of getting your hands on certain things, but digital equipment is cheap and software is free. Everyone is always on the internet naturally so their network is no longer limited to whoever lives within a 40 mile radius.

 

If it was 1989, I'd be the first in line to attend film school.

 

Careful with this hasty generalization of networking via the internet. Yes, I've gotten a lot of work because of networking through the internet, but the connections I made are always grounded in networking from school, set, events, etc. The internet alone isn't enough.

 

Furthermore, good film schools give students access to equipment that they can't afford. My alma mater, Columbia College, had an Alexa, Red One's, BL3's, Panavision G2, C300's, and numerous 16mm cameras when I attended. Film, processing, and scanning were provided by the school as well. In terms of GE, the school had enough equipment to fill three 3-ton GE trucks and a top of the line soundstage. None of these things I could afford, but was given tons of education and hands on use of it while attending.

 

Of course, students get spoiled and are given a rude awakening when they get their first DP gig out of school. I landed a music video, I think one month, after graduation with a budget that could afford a Sony A7S.

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Furthermore, good film schools give students access to equipment that they can't afford.

I don't really talk down on good film schools. The crux of my issue with media programs in general (with the exception of ones like Greg mentioned) is once gear got cheaper across the board, they immediately took that prosumer route to increase profit margins. Barely any kids will realize that because there's a sort of societal pressure to fully trust these Universities.

 

There's so many shady practices in higher education and it feels as if our craft in particular suffers the most from it.

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It's just the nature of the beast. The Japanese have democratized media with cheaper smaller digital cameras, and these schools have been sold on the idea that soon there would be (or "is") a need for more film schools, and wouldn't it be great if their school was one of them.

 

To me you're expressing sympathy and outrage for students who get sold a bill of goods by buying into … I don't know … some "film school" out of University-X between the Rockies and the Atlantic, that otherwise only the locals in the state have heard about. I think that's kind of admirable, but you're also being nostalgic. And to my mind film schools are a Laissez-faire market.

 

Little John or Jane who save up their money to go to Ohio State thinking that's going to be a pipeline into Fox or Universal, to me, means that the only thing that'll carry them is a combination of luck, drive and skill. They won't have the same access to a major studio or market place like you or I, or people who come here, but that's just the way things are.

 

Anecdote; I had a film "business" instructor at SF State who had come from the distributor and producer area of the business. And even though Dean Coppola did his best to vet the people hired for the department, this guy, whose name I will not mention, got through, The thing that made him shady was the fact that (this was 89) he was essentially selling a series of VHS tapes that he had produced on how to be a success in "the film biz" at the student bookstore. I don't think he lasted very long. I signed up for the class thinking I would learn about line producing, how to officially get film insurance, how to manage accounts for investors in projects, dealing with studios on a business level and the like. Nope.

 

The point being that shadiness is not a new thing in academia, in particular film school. But, for what it's worth, in the long run, those people don't last, and get caught in the end.

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I know that this is random but it illustrates my previous point: the best class I had in college, ie film school, was titled THE POWER OF PERSUASIVE SPEAKING AND THE ART OF NEGOTIATION. I still use what I learned way back in 1979 everyday while negotiating terms of my contracts or simply navigating the normal dealings with producers throughout the making of the picture.

 

G

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As others have already pointed out, and has been discussed here in other threads for years, there are tangible and intangible benefits to a film school. And it depends on the school. I went to an art school that had a film department. I wanted to make narrative films, and the school I went to was what I could afford. Narrative filmmaking definitely wasn't the focus of the school - certainly not in the postmodern self-reflective early 1990s art world. I did my thing within that context and made it work for me. It was the pre-web internet -- there were a few film-related mailing lists and some newsgroups (remember those?) but that was about it. The main source of information was books and asking questions of professors who had worked in the industry, and vendors in town (like Cinelab, or Super8Sound or Boston Camera) about things related to processing techniques, or new hardware.

 

The program I was in exposed me to films that I never would have seen or known about, even on today's internet (they're there, but you have to know what to look for). Faculty that knows those films can piece together a coherent curriculum that ties seemingly disparate films together in ways you'd never know to do yourself. This is what you're paying for.

 

I learned next to nothing about the mechanics of filmmaking from my professors unless I asked specific questions. We had a couple grad students who had worked in the industry and taught us a great deal of practical lighting tips, as well as interesting ways to experiment with cameras and printing techniques to see what we could do. I had one professor who was an Avid editor (there were no NLEs at the school at that time, it was all brand new stuff and few people knew how to use Avids). He taught us to use the Steenbeck but in the context of the coming digital revolution. This got me to buy an early consumer NLE (DIVA, later owned by AVID) and learn it. Because of that I learned a lot about what to expect with digital editing without ever even having access to a professional system (and I credit his instruction with getting a job right out of college with one of Avid's biggest competitors).

 

We didn't get solid instruction from the faculty in how to use cameras, or frankly, in how to expose film properly. But that wasn't the point. We got to see tons of films, talk about the ideas behind those films, experiment and develop our own ideas, and make movies. It was fun - I took photo classes to learn about how to expose and develop film. To learn how to use cameras, I borrowed manuals and read them. I bought a copy of the Filmmaker's Handbook and an old ASC cinematography pocket guide and referred to them for years. I developed my eye with art history classes in ways I couldn't have by just doing it on my own -- at least not without a great amount of discipline and planning. It's very hard to learn something you know nothing about on your own without knowing where to focus your energies. This is what school does.

 

Things like your video being used in class would have been the kind of thing I'd have looked at on my own had the resources been available, but I would have appreciated professors pointing me to those resources or even showing them to me as a group, where we could discuss it because they would have provided necessary context.

 

If I was graduating from high school today, or advising someone who was, I'd do it all over again and I'd recommend it as well.

 

As for your footage being used, if I were you and you have enough hits/followers to allow it, I'd monetize those videos with ads. Might as well make something from it, and look at it as free advertising for your services.

 

I wouldn't assume the faculty of ASU is shortchanging their students by showing them internet videos. I can't tell you how many instructional 16mm films we watched through elementary and high school. How is this any different?

Edited by Perry Paolantonio

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If I was graduating from high school today, or advising someone who was, I'd do it all over again and I'd recommend it as well.

 

 

 

You need 4000 hours viewing a year to monetise now. YT threw the baby out with the bathwater when it changed the rules to deal with extremist material.

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I wouldn't assume the faculty of ASU is shortchanging their students by showing them internet videos. I can't tell you how many instructional 16mm films we watched through elementary and high school. How is this any different?

Those instructional 16mm films were produced for the intent of universities purchasing them. The professor Googling videos anyone else could get for free comes off as a ridiculous rip off to me.

 

When I put out something educational I'm glad someone could learn something without going into generational debt (for some). A school that is making millions using that same free educational piece for paying students is repulsive. One could argue it's an evil of capitalism but it's really just lazy and complacent.

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Those instructional 16mm films were produced for the intent of universities purchasing them. The professor Googling videos anyone else could get for free comes off as a ridiculous rip off to me.

 

I doubt an entire class is based on your youtube videos. If it is, you'd have a serious case. But you're talking about a few minutes of one class in one semester. You've presented no evidence that the school is wholesale ripping people off here and basing a curriculum on free source materials. They're showing your video, which you're making available to the world for free. I just don't see the issue here.

 

If however, you had a series of videos and it was the basis for an entire course, sure. But I'm sure the professor is using it because it's a good tool. I'd be flattered, to be honest. and I'd also throw some ads on those videos...

 

One could argue it's an evil of capitalism but it's really just lazy and complacent.

 

 

It's making use of a tool the professor deems high enough quality to use in his/her class, that also happens to be free. You use the best tools for the job. The fact that the video is available for free doesn't mean the professor is ripping off the students. An education comes with a lot more than just mechanical instruction, which is what I was trying to say above. That part is inconsequential in the scheme of things (the nuts and bolts can be learned easily and quickly).

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I doubt an entire class is based on your youtube videos. If it is, you'd have a serious case. But you're talking about a few minutes of one class in one semester. You've presented no evidence that the school is wholesale ripping people off here and basing a curriculum on free source materials. They're showing your video, which you're making available to the world for free. I just don't see the issue here.

Hell if my 10 minute video was used then who knows how many other free videos were used? Even if my video was 55 minutes long, many of these schools take their legal teams more seriously than educating, so individuals like me would have zero chance.

 

And I cannot put ads on it as there is an issue with my AdSense.

 

Part of me is happy that universities acknowledge my.... knowledge, but I get this pit of a feeling when thinking about kids going in debt for any resource that could be found on the first page of Google.

 

I could go around like "endorsed by ASU" but the only purpose that'd really serve is comic relief at the end of the day.

Edited by Macks Fiiod

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I teach on a film production BA. Although as a filmmaker I'm mostly self taught - learning from books, online content, DVDs, directors commentaries, colleagues, podcasts, trial and error etc...

 

Theres little in my classes that couldn't be learn't from free online resources. And indeed from time to time I've shown tutorial clips sourced from youtube in teaching (its particularly useful for AE). No film teacher is filling there classes with just youtube clips - students would complain pretty quickly.

 

I see my role as providing structure and focus. I was self taught and as such I went down a lot of blind alleys, because I didn't know what I didn't know. The point of a film programme is to give structure to that process and it certainly can speed up your progression. I cover in a 3 year degree, the stuff that took me about 10 years to work out for myself.

 

In terms of the other question around cinema workflow, that depends. At undergrad level you can approximate it and include all the main steps needed to make presentable work. But again its a huge topic and you can't cover everything. The priority is focusing on the storytelling and the basics of the craft skills. Any more complex then that, would hint that your working on a larger production and would start to hire experts. An undergrad degree doesn't make experts, it gets you to an intermedia level that will allow you to work in professional productions.

 

I would agree there are issues with education and how its funded and organised etc... But in my experience on the ground level most tutors are passionate about doing a good job and sharing their love of film. We certainly don't do if for the money

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Hell if my 10 minute video was used then who knows how many other free videos were used?

 

You're kind of making my point here - nobody knows except the people in that class. You should tack a little bit onto the end of the video directing ASU students to this thread to chime in. I'd be good to move beyond conjecture and assumptions.

 

I'm willing to bet that your video is a small part of a well thought out curriculum that includes a lot more - including many examples from the instructor's own work, because, well, filmmakers have egos too. The instructor found your video useful, but I don't see how you can draw the conclusion that the whole course is based on freely available media on the internet. That seems to be a stretch. I'd love to hear from students who took the class.

 

 

Part of me is happy that universities acknowledge my.... knowledge, but I get this pit of a feeling when thinking about kids going in debt for any resource that could be found on the first page of Google.

 

As Phil Connolly said in his post - yes all this stuff could be found on the internet, but you don't know what you don't know, and it takes a lot longer to figure out what you don't know than to have someone who does know, distill it down for you and guide you in the learning process.
Another way to look at it: My company offers film scanning services. Could a client build their own film scanner and do their own scanning? Sure. It's totally doable with off the shelf components. but they'll need to learn about image processing, microcontroller programming, probably some 3D printing or CNC router stuff, basic mechanical engineering, and they'll need to put all those pieces together through experimentation, trial and error, and many inquiries on message boards. Or they buy a film scanner made by people who know this stuff already, or just hire someone to do it. (This is assuming you don't know how to do any (or much) of this stuff. Much like an incoming film student doesn't really know much beyond the most elementary basics, probably using consumer gear.)
There is value in knowledge, and knowledge is what you get from a film school. The specific media the professor uses is kind of irrelevant as long as the students are learning. And there is real value in a degree. Is it worth tens of thousands of dollars per year? Depends on how much you as the student value it, I guess. Would I spend $50K/year on film school? Probably not. Would I spend half that on an art school film program? In a heartbeat.

What USA film programs are left in the year 2018 that actually prepare kids for real cinema workflow?

I think this is a fundamentally flawed question because the cinema workflow is constantly changing. The real question should be - what value do you get from a film program? With the speed at which digital imaging and post production evolves, the nuts and bolts stuff you learn is not really the important stuff, because it's not going to be that useful 5 or 10 years from now as the tech changes.
But much like a plumber, you learn the basics in school, then you apply those in the real world, where specific techniques and tools may change over time, but the underlying concepts don't.
Edited by Perry Paolantonio
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I'd love to hear from students who took the class.

I'm paraphrasing but the kid was straight up like "What the hell am I doing in college when I could just learn from individuals willing to spill for way cheaper"

 

This thread was sort of inspired by what the student told me.

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I'm paraphrasing but the kid was straight up like "What the hell am I doing in college when I could just learn from individuals willing to spill for way cheaper"

 

I can only speak from my experience, but I was pretty cocky when I was in college and thought pretty much the same thing. I was looking only at the mechanics of things, thinking that was all you really needed, with no real appreciation for the underlying art and craft of making films. It wasn't until much later that I understood the value of all the other parts of my education that I touched on above. It was totally lost on me at the time.

Edited by Perry Paolantonio

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I can only speak from my experience, but I was pretty cocky when I was in college and thought pretty much the same thing. I was looking only at the mechanics of things, thinking that was all you really needed, with no real appreciation for the underlying art and craft of making films. It wasn't until much later that I understood the value of that part of my education. It was totally lost on me at the time.

I wouldn't call his quote cocky at all, it's a person who understands the value of a dollar (or 100,000 of them) and acknowledges he cannot learn these things on his own.

 

You went to filmschool in the 90's right? Information highway wasn't at your fingertips (I will not get into an argument about 90's internet being good because it was not). This is a guy who currently has options thanks to hyper connectivity in 2018.

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I wouldn't call his quote cocky at all, it's a person who understands the value of a dollar (or 100,000 of them) and acknowledges he cannot learn these things on his own.

 

You went to filmschool in the 90's right? Information highway wasn't at your fingertips (I will not get into an argument about 90's internet being good because it was not). This is a guy who currently has options thanks to hyper connectivity in 2018.

 

To be clear, I never said he was cocky. I said I was. I don't know this person. But assuming he's relatively young, I mean, come on - who doesn't think they know everything when they're 20?

 

I think you're completely ignoring the point I'm trying to make: Yes, lots of information about *how* to do things is on the internet and freely available. Probably everything you'd learn in a film school, on the technical side - how to operate cameras, how to expose an image, how to do various post-production tasks, etc. In the early 90s, this same information was available on mailing lists, newsgroups and in books. Same info, different medium. Can you get it faster now? Sure. Still the same basic info though. As I said above, I learned everything I know about using cameras from reading the manuals. If I was in school now, it'd probably be the same, because that's how I like to learn. The difference is I'd be reading PDFs and not printed copies.

 

What you're not going to get by self-guiding your education is a structured environment that's going to help you connect the dots in a meaningful way. Nobody here has said this can't be done on your own. What I (and some others) are saying is that there is value on having someone who already knows that stuff guiding you through the process. And that it'll take a hell of a lot longer if you have to stumble through the process of figuring out what you need to know.

 

And again - you seem to be talking almost exclusively about techniques. I'm talking about the less tangible stuff you get from a film school education: a visual eye, a sense for storytelling, and a knowledge of what was done before you, a feeling for the language of filmmaking. All of that stuff can be learned over time, but it takes a lot longer and you have to have a lot more discipline to pull that off.

 

 

 

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Its not just about getting access to the information and tutorials. A good degree with push you to critically evaluate your own practice, critique your work and give you workshops and activities that allow you try things. Also the social aspect and finding like minded collaborators is a good thing.

 

Could you do this externally off your own back? For less money? Of course, but it might take longer. I used to attend a film society that formed many of the functions of a film school In the sense that it was a community of practice, we made films, critiqued each others work and even made a 90 min feature film. But these things also are rare and it was hard work for us to fit stuff round our day jobs. The feature took 8 years to complete. One of the joys of going a doing a full time course, is the chance to have full time immersion in the subject.

 

I'm also wary of the idea of film programmes charging 100's of thousands per year. Bachelor's degrees in the UK cost £9250 per year for home students, which is a lot of money, but not crazy high. I would also baulk at the 100k per year programmes.

 

UK Masters are more expensive per year - but the NFTS cinematography masters (which is one of the best in the world) is £14k per year. Its worth every penny

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I mean, come on - who doesn't think they know everything when they're 20?

We're gonna have to accept there's a generational gap between us. Every 16-22 I meet is self-deprecating and devoid of confidence.

 

Times have changed I suppose.

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