January 1, 2015 at 4:14AM

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School or self-taught?

Hi,

I want to start making videos and short films for fun. Should I take an expensive course to learn more about filmmaking and maybe even meet some cool people, or do I spend my money on equipment and learn as I go. Is there a way to meet like-minded people and potential crews?

31 Comments

If you live in a large enough city I would try and meet other Indie film-makers, as they are always looking for people to help with their projects. This will also give you experience with some of the camera equipment that people are using to shoot Indie films, so you will have a better idea of what to buy when you are ready to get your own gear.

January 1, 2015 at 5:42PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30808

I have to agree with you, living in NYC has made my journey into filmmaking an awesome experience. I've had the chance to work with both very small and extremely large productions, I've also had the opportunity to work with and learn about different film making equipment. I guess if you have the money and time film school would be great.

Enrique Olivieri

January 7, 2015 at 9:44AM

You should go to school. You'll feel the difference, especially on the resources and connection.

January 2, 2015 at 12:07AM

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Myrdal Muda
Student Filmmaker
198

If you have the drive to learn it on your own, you have all the tools you need to learn it through the internet with tutorials and different websites where you can meet other filmmakers. However I went to film school and met a ton of great people which instantly gives you connections and a way to learn off of others.

January 2, 2015 at 12:14AM

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School can be a great place to go for that. I went for Sound design/Post Production. It was amazing. I wouldn't change that. Though, for my ever evolving passion and interests in Film and Sound, I have been doing nothing but surrounding myself with others that I meet via social outlets like this one, or in daily life out and about in L.A.

Practice makes progression. The best method is always to go with the trials and make your own way. Some of the more technical aspects can be taught well in classes/labs that are hands on. You may also find you learn best by being more hands on. Learning on your own plane works best. If you love it, live it.

January 2, 2015 at 6:19PM

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Gary Ewing
Short Film Screenwriter, Photographer, Director.
144

I learned without a school. And I am still learning day by day. My cousin went to film school and is now working on his first US film (as a Belgian) and worked as a DP on many films. School can teach you very important things as well as small things that become one whole and can drastically improve your workflow.

January 3, 2015 at 11:05AM, Edited January 3, 11:05AM

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gandulf charpentier
director of pornography
756

School is a great platform for forming connections, but it does not teach you drive. You have to more than just want it. You have to love this profession to develop the discipline to stick with it, and that's not something teachable. You gotta want it.

January 3, 2015 at 1:48PM

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For me film school was a great way to start learning the field, but what makes the difference is how you develop what you learn there further. So even if you go to film school you have to eventually become self - taught to progress, but you will most likely have a much better starting point if you attend a good film school.

This has been the experience for myself, anyway.

January 3, 2015 at 2:42PM

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Simon A. Kristiansen
Producer/Director/Screenwriter
119

The best thing about school is that it has the resources to help you experiment and develop your skills. They have equipment for you to use that (if they are a good school) will be comparable to what you'd work with in the real world. You have other people around you to collaborate with. And it gives you some time to see various aspects of the production world and really settle on what you want to do. Input from professors can be invaluable. When exploring potential schools, try to find out about their work history. Heavily favor schools with professors who are STILL working in the industry, or are just taking a break to teach for a year or something.

It might be a good opportunity to get some early jobs as well. Businesses in the surrounding area might recognize the name of the school and give you an opportunity to do some work based on that alone. I had professors pull me onto side projects to work as a PA or cheap grip or AE before I got into my own gigs.

January 3, 2015 at 4:15PM

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Joshua Bowen
Editor
690

School can definitely give you the resources and access but more so it gives you a great base for a network of people that you can find chemistry with to work on interesting projects. Working with and learning how to manage your crew and your resources to create a great visual product is what filmaking is all about. It's the core fundamental to filmaking. Once you find your 'tribe', filmaking can be the most rewarding experience that will teach you so many things not only about the craft, but on life as well. Good luck and hope that you get your first film made soon!

January 4, 2015 at 9:35AM

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Persis Shanker
Writer/Producer and Director & Digital Project Manager
86

Ahhh.... i started off going to school for about two years and i loved the experience because i met people i would have never met by myself and i got to interface with all the big industry professionals so thats where that paid off. Now the knowledge aspect.. not so much, i taught myself stuff to the point where as a 2nd year student i was overseeing final year students and then after i decided not to finish the program. I was asked at times to do guest lectures and workshops on film making with emphasis on lighting. So it has its place but if you aren't someone who can motivate yourself then school is for you because film making is not for the weak heart especially if you rolling solo. So evaluate yourself first and then make the decision.

January 4, 2015 at 12:03PM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2361

If you can afford it, why not try both?

January 4, 2015 at 5:39PM

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Tommy Plesky
Director / D.P / Editor
1927

If you want to work on film sets, or on TV shows, I think it is worth it. If you want to shoot indies, unless you have another source of income I think the debt is too much. Doing indie films, or documentaries is hard, and that extra 3-600 dollars a month you have to pay on your school loans can really limit what you can do out of college. I wrote a piece about it here for doc makers: http://www.zookmann.com/thinking-of-film-school-what-aspiring-documentar... .

Like others have said though... if you don't have the drive, none of it is worth pursuing. This world is so competitive that you need to be able to work very long hours, over extended periods of time, just to stay in the game. There is a lot to learn. If you don't LOVE this world, there are much easier things to study to make money.

Good luck!

January 4, 2015 at 5:42PM

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Jesse Zook Mann
Producer/ Director
165

Both, But I would suggest to find a Media Arts Center in your area that offers college level like programs in film & video production. There you will find a quality education similar to those found in Accredited schools & universities for the fraction of the time & cost. At the same time shoot short films in spare time, this will help develop your skills.

January 4, 2015 at 5:44PM

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Considering that most of the tools and experience are readily available, you might also consider studying something other than film and use that as an advantage that other filmmakers don't have. This could give you ideas of what films you want to make, how you see the world and what drives you. Many film students learn all the techniques (if they are lucky) and then have no idea what to do with them.

January 4, 2015 at 6:00PM

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David Scott Kessler
Director, DP, Editor
81

digital and internet made this a no brainer decision,in my opinion.save your money to buy good equipment.also,if you get a need for some suggestions you can find a whole world through your pc.and ,if you really want to ,you can choose some great places to take seminars for exactly the info that you re missing.and buddy,this journey is about running,talking,searching.i know that to have a baby treatment in the beginning is a nice luxury but not at these prices.do yourself a favor and activate yourself.you gain extra confidence believe me.

January 4, 2015 at 6:11PM

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After spending a considerable amount of money and time in film courses and film schools, and if I could return back in time I wouldn't do it again. Although I think if you get the chance to attend a good cinema course, have good teachers that are real filmmakers and do work in the sector with passion, if the course is more pratical than theoretical, than it is wise and useful to study cinema in a school or institution. Although there are many cases of schools that exist just to make money from their students.
One can learn alone, but it takes a lot of effort and self discipline.
One can learn a lot by trying and observe the process and the results. One can learn a lot by watching other people work, not only in cinema. One can learn a lot from life.
Life experiences are the ultimate resource for becoming a good filmmaker. Life experiences and a learning process, technical and theoretical.
After attending a few cinema courses I realized that I lost time and money in some of them. Strange thing is that I feel that the one that was the most expensive, a Master in Cinema Studies, was the worst of all. There was 1 or 2 teachers that were good, others were there just to earn a salary and go home. It was a bad decision once I decided between buying a professional camera or attend the course and I decided for the course.
Although I did learn quite a few useful things in smaller and shorter courses, such as Workshops. Short term courses usually go straight to the point, and you learn the basis necessary for you to move alone from there. Nowadays I believe more in learning by stages, i.e., short courses for each topic I want to learn about.
One positive thing you can get from cinema courses is networking. You will meet other people that can became partners in projects and/or friends for life.
Good luck with your career.

January 4, 2015 at 6:21PM

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Diogo Pessoa Andrade
Filmmaker. Cinematographer. Editor. Digital Colourist.
81

I'm going to college to learn coding and programming so I'm just another Jack in the box, but it's like this. I'm 20, I've spent around 2k in camera / video tech, and I appreciate how gorgeous my images are, but with limited understanding of how I'm shooting. I only shoot live bands and maybe a short film. I don't really understand composition. Sure things like luminance, and color temperature, but not how to shoot the world around the lights. If I can afford it one day, I'll take a few months for the 101 in cinematography.

January 4, 2015 at 6:23PM

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I'm currently in a two year course at a film school in Australia and I hate it, but I have learnt a lot from where I've started. As Alexander Akrivos said above in the comments "there are many cases of schools that exist just to make money from their students" I think I am at at one of those schools. I'm in the program to get a bachelor and I wish I'd just stayed for half a year and got a diploma - otherwise it's not really worth it unless you're at one of the big prestigious film schools.
If you can go to a film school and get your fees deferred so you pay them off as tax/debt later on, it may be worth your time, and while being at film school you will have time to do side projects to help aid your show reel and experience level. Otherwise, look into do some intern work instead.

January 4, 2015 at 6:46PM, Edited January 4, 6:46PM

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Lil
74

What school are you at?

Liam Kelly

January 5, 2015 at 12:54AM

i think i was at a university that was only out to make money from me, good to know i'm not alone!

Tom

January 9, 2015 at 7:07AM

You can do it either way, it just depends on how much time you have. I changed my career when I was 30, so I already had a lot of basic experience and knowledge from being a photographer, designer, and video nut. I spend a year READING every website I could find, and finally got to the point where I needed the gear. I attended the Maine Media Workshops, and then entered the industry. It took about 3 years, and cost less than a degree.
There is no right way do it, so make your own path!

January 4, 2015 at 7:11PM

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Dean Merrill
Cinematographer
74

Check out Sharp Focus Media Academy in Glendale, CA. It's not a traditional time/money-wasting film school, but still provides hands-on training in all areas of production and offers real industry experience at an affordable cost. www.SharpFocusMediaAcademy.com
(They also have dozens of 5-Star Yelp reviews too)

January 4, 2015 at 7:54PM

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Scott Crawley
Creative Director
74

Guys for the sake of reality and I am talking from my Personal Experience (I have a Master degree in Film Directing and Cinematography ([[ costed me at least 95,583.45$ ]]) and I was taught by Name Hollywood Directors=many of them, Including Bobby Roth [Prison Break] and Bill Tannin)
You will NEVER Ever HEAR Anything better than what Hollywood Director Robert Rodriguez said in his - Rebel Without a Crew - Book.
It is always better to hear from Someone who already went to Filmschool (like Robert Rodriguez or any other filmmaker, me for example)
The Gold Notes that he wrote in his book are more than to be quoted from. They are A LOT.
Howerver, I'll put for u the best of what he said concerning this subject (anyway his entire book is about it):
* If you want to be a filmmaker and you can't afford film school, know that you don't really learn anything in film school anyway. (He Doesn't mean it literally of course bcz He Learned Something from filmschool, me too..but he mention this in relates of the LOT money that you pay to film school.
* You learn to tell stories by telling stories. And you want to discover your own way of doing things.
* In school they also don't teach you how to make a movie when you have no money and no crew. They teach you how to make a big movie with a big crew so that when you graduate you can go to Hollywood and get a job pulling cables on someone else's movie.
* I was inventing my own film school where I would be the only student and where experiences, mistakes, problems, and solutions would be my teachers.

* END OF QUOTINGS, HEAD TO THE BOOK TO READ IT*

I met Steven Spielberg, my friend met him too, anyway my friend said:
When I asked steven spielberg what he thinks about film schools he said "it's a waste of time and money" and I couldn't agree more!

Is there any good about film schools?
definitely YES.
Is there any good about film schools That U can't get without It?
definitely NO.
You only need to be in the state of mind of the position that you like to work (Director, Cinematographer ect), U have to know your responsibility and what you expect the others to do. Improve yourself (Learn from short extensive workshops, read some Must Books) And DO what U need to do.
Director? U need to tell stories, if u think u cant tell stories except after paying 90,000$ of your family money to film school then Forget it.
Cinematographer? Bienvenu we are in 2015. Start-up standard Equipments are cheap to buy. Expensive equipments are cheap to rent. (as Hollywood director Robert Rodriguez said: U dont need Fancy stuff to make your film looks great. U must make it looks great with something u afford.
[ U cant read Robet' Book? Ok check out his videos on YouTube]
[ U cant go to YouTube and u are reading this? OK here's a link of Robert 10min Film School]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-YpfievjSk

January 4, 2015 at 11:09PM

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Ammar Quteineh
Director|Cinematographer |||France|||
722

Step 1: Shoot three shorts on your phone (not kidding). Edit and do the sound yourself.
Step 2: Shoot three shorts on your phone with one of those lens kits containing one wider focal length and one or two longer focal lengths. Edit and do the sound yourself.
Step 3: Shoot three shorts using whatever the cheapest rental camera is on borrowlenses.com (Canon T4i ?). Edit and do the sound yourself.

Then after that you'll be in a position to properly gauge for yourself whether film school is relevant or not (no one can really assess this for you but yourself, because it's largely based on what you want to specifically do in the film arena, and there's no way you can know that until you've made a bunch of stuff).

An important thing to keep in mind—with film school or art school or anything field of study that is largely creative—is that the curriculum/faculty comprises 1/3rd of your actual education. Another third comes from your peers (learning from their work, comparing your work to theirs, pushing yourself to keep up with the better of them, and by collaborating with them). And the other third comes purely from your own initiative… basically what you go out of your way to learn and teach yourself… sometimes this a result of some small morsel a faculty member briefly exposes you to that you later dig deeper into for weeks, sometimes it's ignited by something you discover on your own.

So if you feel you can do the self-initiative third on your own, and end up falling into a group of other driven, inspiring peers to comprise the other third (not an easy task though), then you are in a better position to opt for not going to film school.

Specifically, I'd recommend you enlist in one of those 48-hour type production competition thingees if you can… they're great way to meet others who are actively making stuff and/or want to be actively making stuff. Hope this helps.

January 5, 2015 at 12:50AM

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Jaan Shenberger
designer/animator & live-action director/DP
1241

Amazing responses everyone. Great insights.

By conclusion, I think the main thing I would gain personally from a film course or school is the people. I want to collaborate with others but it seems tough to find them in Europe.

I guess I'm on my own for now.

January 5, 2015 at 8:44AM

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Sounds like you should check out the kino movement! I felt lonely and lost too and I'm so glad I started going to kino kabarets. they are a cross between a festival and a workshop. they are non competitive and free (well you generally pay around 30 to 50 euros for a week/10 days and they provide accommodation and generally food). every kabaret is generally made up of 2 or 3 sessions from 24 to 72 hours. filmmakers from around the wortd pitch they're projects, teams are formed, you go out and shoot your film, come back, edit and show it. it's a great way of meeting like-minded people, learn tons and just do! you can decide to be a director in one session, boom in the next and act in the following, it's entirely up to you. here are some links http://kinoberlino.tumblr.com/kinokalender
kino-kabaret.de
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kino_%28movement%29

if you need more info just drop me a line and i'll be glad to help.

cheers!

David Power

January 7, 2015 at 12:51PM

I dropped out of school because the film program was lame and the first 2 years were spent wasting my time (and money) in general education classes (that were equal in lame-ness).

First thing I did after I dropped out was start crashing sets with intent on PA'ing.
"Hi, I'm young and capable and here to work for free. I just want experience and education."

I got a bunch of jobs this way, some that were paid. From there I AC'd and even 2nd AD'd.
From this I got something called "real world experience" which is 10,000x more valuable than anything I could get in a classroom.

That experience, combined with my adolescent exploration of of filmmaking techniques and the internet, has allowed me to accomplish some great things. I now work at a filmmaking accessories company that allows me access to a plethora of gear and information that will only help further my education.

There is nothing film school can offer you that the real world can't. There's a ton the real world can offer you that school can't. Either way you need an education. How you get it is up to you.

As far as connections go, you'd be surprised how many other PA's are aspiring filmmakers. Hint: all of them.

Bonus: they're just as hungry as you.

Goodluck

January 5, 2015 at 6:47PM

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AJ Lodge
made a movie once
142

I'm a rookie filmmaker from Bangalore, India and I'm pretty much confused too. Not much Indie filmmakers have found success here, except for a few (Anurag Kashyap and alike) and the reason is that majority Indian audience love more of the drawn-out contents of Mainstream films. Another problem is the linguistic diversity which has been the major hurdle for Indie filmmakers to reach out to a larger audience. It is because Indie films have a rather different image, they are known by the name 'Experimental Film' or 'Art Film', and it's the least popular or maybe not-all-popular tag, so not much people want to be recognized with it.

Indian Film schools is a joke and to join one in a foreign country requires expenditure beyond my capabilities. There isn't much networking options available either, since most of the people I've met want to break into the Mainstream cinema rather than an Artistic Indie film.

I'm thinking about making Commercials though, for the start. It's always ahead of the Mainstream Cinema in technology, talent and ideas. Maybe, I could then buy some time and see what can be done about my feature film dreams.

January 6, 2015 at 7:12AM

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Amogh Halageri
Director, Director of Photography, Editor & Screenwriter
161

I havent gotten a chance to read all the comments, im sure there all have some great things to say, but ultimately you need to decide! If you want to do this as a hobby or just for fun then by all means, if you have the budget, get a starter camera and teach yourself. With all the great tutorials on YouTube, and sites like this one and Lynda.com can give you all the basics you need to get started. The tutorials can be as simple as how to create titles in AE or as complex as masking and in depth color correcting. The tools are definitely out there. Even if you decide you want to do this professionally then I still say teach yourself. If Film School is an option then I say take it, the resources and connections you find in school are priceless but for many school is not an option for many reasons. And although school will give you a leg up, doesn't mean you cant be successful or a great filmmaker without it.

January 6, 2015 at 8:56AM

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Luis Garcia
Director/Editor
227

Both are valid i think...

January 22, 2015 at 6:44AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7599

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