Monday Prescriptions – 4 Things Film Schools Are Great For…And 5 Things They’d Never Tell You

Good morning. As The Film Doctor Team has its hand on the pulse of the UK film industry, it is always exciting to learn more about the incoming fresh waves of talent – like reading up on Screen International‘s annual UK Stars of Tomorrow .  Keeping tabs on emerging filmmakers and their needs informs our work, so substantial amounts of time is devoted to interacting with film school graduates and the soon-to-be. This Monday Prescription is dedicated to the film school experience – 4 undeniable facts that make it worthwhile attending one and 5 film industry essentials you, sadly, don’t learn while you’re there.




4 THINGS FILM SCHOOLS ARE GREAT FOR

1. The best ‘playground’ you could wish for – If you can afford the tuition fees, doing a film degree / course gives you the freedom to experiment and learn all day long. There’s unlimited access to equipment, reference books, studio facilities, staff expertise and fellow students’ talents. It is the ultimate time to make as many mistakes as possible. And have fun with it.

2. Building your industry network – Whoever you meet during your time at a film school – tutors and classmates alike – those contacts will form the basis of your film industry network of contacts. Before even landing your first ‘gig’, you would’ve already had a head-start in networking and collaborating – an absolutely invaluable skill to have in any creative industry. And in a few years time you might cross paths again or call upon those old connections for your next project or even personal advice/support.

3. A diploma // degree – To an extent (and in certain circles), a diploma from a recognisable inter/national film school still has the power to boost credentials and open doors. It is also something you might want to / have to fall back on, in order to secure a “paying job”, while still focusing on your own projects. Yes, there might be a lot of successful film directors / screenwriters who didn’t do a film degree / course, but chances are a prospective employer (in or outside the film & TV industry) might favour candidates with a piece of paper to show.

4. Broadening your horizons –  Yes, you can be self-taught and pick up on the craft from books and film watching. However, you’d never present yourself with the same array of literature and film material, as you’d be presented with at the film school’s library. Or come across at lectures. Even the most inquisitive mind often leans towards the familiar and tested out subject/genre/field, so it’s always good to have external influences, e.g. tutors and lecturers, encourage you (or even make it compulsory) to explore ‘unknown territories’. You might’ve never deliberately gone through the 1920s Soviet Cinema catalogue, or only heard of Buñuel in passing, but every time you’re challenged to sample something new, you’d learn and understand the film world better. And don’t forget, to excel in one industry, you need to learn its history and developments.






 

5 THINGS THEY’D NEVER TELL YOU THERE

1. Shorts don’t make you rich & famous – Although, making shorts is undoubtedly a wonderful practical learning tool. And making a great short could occasionally get you noticed by “the right people”, who, in turn, will entrust you with something bigger (sometimes, a decent budget for your own bigger project) – which then might make you rich & famous.

2. Public funding is not the ‘holy grail’ – When it comes to raising money for your project, the majority of UK filmmakers seem to be very reliant on governmental institutions and funding bodies. And it is, of course, great to have the opportunity to apply for state-subsidised development and production schemes, etc. What they won’t really elaborate on during your film studies is that the bigger money pools are actually outside the film industry, and that private funding options could sometimes prove more effective. The US filmmakers seem to have it all figured out in that sense – for example, refer to Tom Malloy’s experience in Bankroll

3. Excellent content needs to come in excellent packaging – Having developed a fantastic screenplay is one thing, being able to pitch it and ‘shop’ it around successfully is a different one. No one would ever bother to ‘sample’ the ‘goods’ you brought, if they’re not nicely ‘wrapped’ and laid out. Throughout your writing or directing course you’re highly unlikely to be taught how to pitch, make submission/press packs, or create an attractive investor/distributor package – and this is why upon your graduation you’d find yourself bewildered by the “elevator pitch”, “sizzle reels”, and “release copies”.

4. It is business after all – Unless you’ve enrolled on a Producing course, film education tends to be more about ‘film as art form’ / ‘film as creative expression’, rather than ‘film as product’… which it, ultimately, IS. At the end of a film course/degree, you are more likely to have mastered the storytelling and shots composing than be able to discuss a film’s market position, target audience or sales revenue streams. Even if all you want to do is write, write, write, it still helps to have your head screwed on in the deal-making department – after all, you want to have screenplays that sell, right?

5. There is no guaranteed work at the end of it – Sorry. But perseverance and persistence is what separates the wheat from the chaff and gets that coveted spot in the industry.

‘Monday Prescription’ No. 25 – Learn as much as you can, however you do. It is not how you gain your expertise that counts, but what you make out of it at the end.

 
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Have a great week!
 
The Film Doctor Team
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