How to Replicate a First-Year Film School Project Without Spending $40,000
Since graduating from NYU, I have met many DIYers who have expressed a desire to go back to film school to learn more about the craft of filmmaking. But they are typically surprised when I explain what is typically taught in the first year at any major film school. In this blog post, I’d like to share with you a very simple way to get a similar filmmaking experience to what a student at NYU, USC, or New York Film Academy gets — without paying a lot in tuition.
USC and NYU share a very similar curriculum and approach to teaching young filmmakers about the craft. NYU students take a course called “Sight and Sound: Film”. USC Students take a course called “310″. The courses are virtually the same, and have been copied by New York Film Academy and any other school that still offers film based filmmaking.
The main ingredients are an Arri-S camera (or Bolex) and 16mm black and white reversal film.1 Reversal film is cheap, like slide film, in that the film that goes inside the camera is the film that actually gets developed and printed. There is no negative.
There is no “synch sound”, so the projects are either silent or dubbed. For those who grew up all digital, remember that film cameras do not record sound; the audio is recorded separately. The process of making sure the film and audio run at the same speed is called “synching”. These old cameras are “non synch” which means they cannot be synched up to run at the same speed as audio; the mouths move all funny like bad anime.
This is a Sight and Sound Film from NYU:
And this a film from class 310 at USC:
And this is a similar one from New York Film Academy’s $18,000 a semester course:
These silent, black and white films typically comprise a full semester at any film school. But if you’d like to make an old school film for a little less money, here’s how. You need to rent an Arri-S or Bolex camera. These cameras haven’t been in popular use since the 1960s, but you can rent them in many major cities including New York.
If you’re in New York, go to Brooklyn and check out Hit and Run Productions. Rent one of these cameras for $150 a day.
Google ”16mm reversal film”. Buy a roll, and you can rent a light meter for $10 and some lights for under $50. Ask the guys at the production house how to use the light meter and load the film. This may sound complex, but it’s as easy as learning to change a tire and only takes about an hour to learn. In fact you can also google “Robert Rodriguez 10 minute film school” and he explains how he used a light meter while shooting “El Mariachi”.
Go out, shoot your film with friends, and then go to colorlab.com (drop it off or mail it in) to have it developed and digitizied, then edit it on your home computer. Many students pay $40,000 to learn how to make this kind of film — you’ve just done it for just a few hundred bucks.
My name is Seth Hymes, and I’m an NYU Film Grad and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. After graduating NYU it took me a long time to figure out how to actually start getting a movie made, and I did it all without a thing I learned in film school. I realized there was a huge disconnect between what is taught in these schools and what you really need to make movies, which is why I initially wrote “Film Fooled” and then put together Film School Secrets with some of my colleagues. My goal is to help young filmmakers get started on the right path towards realizing their creative dreams without wasting years of time and tons of money on school.
- Editor’s note: wait, seriously, they still teach shooting on film, even today? [↩]