There’s a huge debate among filmmakers as to whether film school is necessary for this instantly available information age. If I have a question about how to key a green screen or animate a 3D bird into a scene the answer is available with a couple of clicks. Besides that, even formal filmmaking courses are now publicly available for free. (Such as this free film school from MIT).
The argument goes that since equipment and software are so accessible and information is free, this renders film school unnecessary and expensive.
As a young man just turned on to film, I was passionate about the art and craft of film and almost immediately began to work in a professional studio as a cameraman and editor.
While I didn’t attend a formal film school, my hunger for more led me to attend every film/ graphic design/ multimedia class offered by my local community college.
Here are my personal observations:
1. Is Film Training Necessary? – Are you disciplined?
If you are a highly motivated, disciplined type A driver personality that networks well and gets stuff done then skip film school, buy a camera, watch tutorials, network some friends and go make your film.
There are many famous examples of people who did just that: Cristopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, James Cameron, Akira Kurosawa are only a few of the myriad of amazing/ successful directors that never graced the film school hallways.
This was not me. I was extremely passionate, but I was undisciplined.
Film classes forced me to read books, study, attend lectures, watch and analyze films. They gave me filming assignments that I had to complete which were critiqued by friends who were talented and passionate about filming. It allowed me to attend labs where film professionals (professors and staff) were there to answer my questions and advise me on my work.
Would I have spent that many hours in front of YouTube videos/ Linda/ ripple training/… Would I have logged into the MIT film school and worked my way through it’s teaching. Probably not. My studies would have been sporadic if I did it at all. I most likely would have woken up later, played more video games, skateboarded and wasted much of my free time away.
I needed the pressure of having an assignment due or a test coming to study as intensely as I did.
2. Is film Training Necessary? – Are you good at networking?
As a young man, I was so horrible at networking that I once produced an entire monthly TV show all by myself (I filmed it, often acted in it, edited it, did sound, and color corrected)… I simply didn’t know how to meet other filmmakers and didn’t have the confidence or strength of vision to ask them to join in my cause. Sure I learned a lot, but…
Attending film classes put me smack dab in the center of a creative community of passionate filmmakers who spent all their spare time making films. We made films for school and for fun, showed each other what we learned and shared tips and techniques. We spent hours together in labs, on set, and hanging outside of class.
Without film classes, I wouldn’t have made those connections and would have spent my days filming butterflies on flowers or birds in the park (anything that I could do alone without involving others).
3. Still the best training- Do it
All that being said, I can honestly say that no film classes prepared me to run my own video production company. Being in business has forced me to be disciplined and to network well. (OK. at least a little better).
The best training has been making films day and night- having real clients. Working with those clients to meet marketing/ sales/ informational goals and tell good stories about their business or brand. We’ve learned from our mistakes and our successes: practiced on our off time and are now very motivated to learn from every and all available sources.
Would I have gotten to the same point without film classes? Probably. I just think that for me it would have taken a whole lot longer.