This post was written by Lydia Muir.

Most courses and programs can be quite pricey (although there are some free ones and scholarships out there if you look). If you are attending one, you want to make sure you are getting the most value for your time and money.

Fresh out of a one-year conservatory program at NYFA, I wanted to share with everyone my biggest takeaways from this experience. Aside from the obvious knowledge from my classes and assignments, here are some tips that I felt helped me to get the most out of my program.

Be Nice to Everyone

This may sound very obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people weren’t nice to some of the staff. From those who work at the front desk to the assistants at the equipment room, everyone there is likely a fan of filmmaking and worth getting to know.

Also, you never know where you could get your next job from! Ask people for their name and make a conscious effort to remember it and greet them when you see them. People talk, and having a friendly reputation could be the key to someone recommending you for a project!

Ask Everyone You Meet for Their Story

Similarly to the last tip, this seems like an easy task but is very underrated. Whenever you get the chance to interact with someone new at the school or on a project, ask people about themselves. You might find out that they have a similar idea or passion to you and you can collaborate on a project.

One day, I was talking to a screenwriting student at my school, and I mentioned that I would love to see more stories about grief and multicultural experiences and she mentioned that she had just written a feature that incorporates exactly both those things. That was all it took to spark a conversation, which blossomed into a friendship. Now, we are collaborating on multiple projects!

'Sapling' Credit: Dhwani Shah

Don’t Be Afraid to Share Your Ideas

Especially as a producer, I always thought that I wasn’t creative enough to share my creative ideas. However, as I started to meet more people and build confidence, I became more proactive in talking about projects that I was currently developing or ideas that I had for future projects. Suddenly, people were recommending resources and people that I could talk to and the idea was able to be developed much faster than if I had tried to do it alone.

Get to Know the Other Departments

Don’t feel confined to the department that you are a part of. One of the biggest advantages of attending film school are the many people who work and study there. Reach out to the head of each department and introduce yourself and your role.

Similarly, you can also reach out to them when you need to fill a certain role. I was producing a short film and needed a cinematographer so I asked my cinematography instructor to recommend some students in his department that may be a good fit for the project. You never know unless you ask!

Find Your Crew

Everyone knows that filmmaking is a collaborative industry and you can’t make a film alone so finding your crew is so important. You can have hundreds of great ideas, but if you don’t know any DPs or art directors or gaffersーit is extremely hard to get anything made.

Try to work with as many people as you can and find the people that you get along well with. Doing an intense 3-day shoot together is usually enough for you to tell if someone is hard-working, professional, kind and competent. Keep a contact list of all the great people you meet so you can reach out to them later. Find out what projects they are interested in and if there are any other roles they’d like to try.

'Unboxed' btsCredit: Lydia Muir

Try EverythingーYou Might Be Surprised!

When I started my program, I was sure that I wanted to be a producer and nothing else. Nine months later and now I’m writing and directing a web series! Be open to trying roles in different departments and learning about what every person on the crew does.

Not only may you find a new passion but you may also uncover a hidden talent that you weren’t even aware of. My classmate started the program thinking her main skills were as a journalist. After doing the casting process once, she discovered she had a great eye for spotting talent and really enjoyed communicating with the actors. Now, she is the go to casting director for all projects!

Whatever course you decide to take, hopefully these tips will help you make the most of your time in any film program or even when volunteering on a film production!

This post was written by Lydia Muir, a New York based filmmaker. She is currently developing a web-series as well as multiple short films. If you have any questions or want to chat, feel free to reach out to her on Instagram @lydiamuir_film