Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Finding a Good Film School

This one is for the prospective film student. How to find the right film school? Does location matter...Or should you go for the infrastructure (camera/lighting equipment, editing suites, studios)? Reputation does count a lot. In fact, many of the film schools from the old days are still gold...and the plethora of those that have sprung up now, might just confirm your worst fears.

1. Choose your vocation: You might be interested in just the technical side of filmmaking (see video editing, sound editing), or the creative side (set design, scripting) or both (production, direction!). Deciding your vocation in advance will help you decide the course you want to pursue.

2. Grab your course: Once you've decided what you really want to do (and I hope you decide that on the basis of what really interests you, and not what will earn you more)...its time to grab the course. Most film institutes offer dedicated short term courses in cinematography, video editing, sound engineering and acting respectively. If you like a bit of everything and/or are undecided on what you'd really like, then go for the comprehensive filmmaking course.

3. The Location: Will you be placing yourself thousands of miles from the place where you want to film your work? If you ultimately want to work in Hollywood you might want to aim for a California school so you can go ahead and begin building that network. If you want to work in Bollywood, nothing better than FTII at Pune.

4. Equipment and Facilities: decade ago, the equipment that a school could offer mattered a lot, but it’s not a lot to get worked up about today. After all, you can buy an HVX-200, a laptop and Final Cut Studio for a fraction of a year’s tuition at most film schools. You don’t want to go someplace that has crummy equipment, nor do you want to attend a school that lacks enough equipment to serve its students. You need good (film and video) cameras, sound equipment, lights, and editing stations. (Maybe not even the editing stations, if you already own one.) Beyond that, don’t get worked up about facilities and equipment.

5. Length of Program: Most programs are three years; some are two years. There may be a difference between what a school’s literature states and the reality though. Ask current students for the skinny on how long it takes for students to typically finish a program. It can be a positive thing, of course, to stay in school as long as you can.

Action! Every year, tens of thousands of hopefuls apply to film school to start a career behind the camera. If you're of them, you probably dream of one of top five film schools - UCLA, NYU, the American Film Institute, Columbia and USC. (Aren't film students big dreamers, after all?)

Of the five, USC and NYU are considered the top of the heap. USC is, both literally and figuratively, closer to Hollywood. Applicants may need Jedi mind tricks to gain admittance into this alma mater of George Lucas - the school accepts 150 undergrads out of 14,000 applicants annually. NYU, the home base of Miramax and Tribeca Productions, has an "indie" edge, personified by prominent grads like Spike Lee, Ang Lee, and Oliver Stone.

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