Published : 4th November 2005
After a pretty lengthy career as a director of photography, I find myself "in conversation" with a couple of film schools which need curriculum help for their cinematography divisions. I have some strong ideas about what a film school could and should do for its students, but would love to hear from my experienced colleagues.
Specifically, if you went to film school, what did you learn that did you any good when you got out into the working world of cinematography? What did you learn that got in your way?
Or, if you didnâ€™t go to film school, but have hired kids who did, what kind of film education seemed to help them, and what got in their way?
Thanks very much for your insights and help.
Director of Photography
Rick Wise wrote :
>Specifically, if you went to film school, what did you learn that did you >any good when you got out into the working world of cinematography? >What did you learn that got in your way?
One thing I never got any tuition in, which was a real hindrance at first, was how to anticipate what would be needed on a job in terms of equipment. I went to a film school with fantastic resources in terms of lights and cameras so with the exception of a few occasions where something 'special' had to be brought in all the gear was on tap. If I'd underestimated on the lighting front - no problem; just break out another lamp from stores.
In the real world you have to work all that out in advance - often without the benefit of a finished script/treatment, a fixed location or any specific idea of what shots might be required. I think I would have really benefited from someone just explaining how to go about ordering up an equipment list right from the 'get go'.
Film schools also breed a 'make do' attitude due to limitations of certain resources. Whilst that forces innovation on the students ( a good thing) they should know (and this relates to my first point) that they need to work towards getting what they want, rather than just work with what they have.
That all sounds pretty boring doesn't it but I think it's worth teaching.
As one who has had no education whatever other that a father's knee and the family dining table (probably the finest schools of all) and who went on to become a reasonably competent cinematographer and the Chairman of the Governors of a Film School (The London International), I have often asked myself the same question and came up with the following conclusions :
If you have been to Film School you will have done a bit of gripping, a bit of camera work, a bit of sound recording and a bit of editing, and a bit of every thing else before, in-between and after. What you learn of those crafts is in no way as good as working, and being paid for it, at the feet of the masters.
If to be a cinematographer is your ambition, time spent carrying tea for a top class crew is not wasted, nor is a year or two pulling focus for someone who did it himself and now has an Oscar on his mantelpiece. To work as an operator for a producer who cannot afford to go again for faulty operating teaches you to concentrate the mind.
I think too that having done a bit of everything at film school you will come through it knowing what you did best and enjoyed doing most. I think you will also demonstrate to yourself and to others that you have film making in your belly and have been prepared to give up your own time and money to be good at it ... It is not just a nice, well paid, job. It is a life of dedication ....and of waiting for the telephone to ring.
Tom Townend wrote:
>Film schools also breed a 'make do' attitude due to limitations of certain >resources.
I agree. I always try to foster "professional" approaches to problems but that isn't always possible beyond talking about it but I at least mention it. On the other hand, I feel it is important to prepare them for those first jobs which might be micro-budget, so I do at least one class where we work with practicals and lights built with foam core and MR-16s, that sort of thing.
That's just one class however and I jump at every chance to show them the bigger units, the stuff we use on real jobs. Recently we used a Moleeno to light a headshot -- it was gorgeous. I do emphasize "Making the order," as an important skill to learn, but how to teach it on a practical level?
You are right -- in film school it's all about using "what is here," while on a real job, you have to previsualize, plan ahead and make sure what you need is on the truck. I'm open to ideas about how to better teach that, I haven't really figured out a good way to do it. One thing I do is ask students to bring them their lighting order for thesis films and we can talk about it then. Not much, but it helps. I try to bring students along with me on real jobs as apprentices, but that is limited to one or two, so it hardly counts as education.
Here's my $.02 I think my perspective might be different than most, given that my filmmaking education was a bit A-typical.
I attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where I received a BFA in "fine art filmmaking." To clarify what "fine art filmmaking" is, let just say that at the Art Institute, a filmmaker is pretty much just like a painter; you tell a painter, here's some paints, a canvas and a brush, make a painting. And you tell a filmmaker, here's a Bolex, a light meter and a hundred feet of B&W reversal. Literally, I decided one weekend that I wanted to make a 16mm film (knowing almost nothing), and by the end of the week, I had shot my first. Quite literally, I graduated not knowing what a C-Stand is, nor that I should check the gate (much less how to check it), and we checked out light kits (of which there were few) only when we needed more light than would be available in the location.
On the one hand, that's a very shotty film education, and hardly one that would be likely to turn out a DP, but on the other hand, I don't think I could have gotten a better one. What I did learn in film school, was what I had to say as a filmmaker and what I had to say as a DP. No amount of technical training and time on a set will teach you what you have to say. That only comes from dialogue with other's who are engaged in the process, noticing the world around you and making a lot of films.
My point being that learning the difference between a 1200 Fresnel and 1200 par won't make a good DP of anyone, but understanding the cinematic impact on the story of which of those you choose will. When I say cinematic impact, I mean not the exposure, camera moves, lighting, etc, but knowing (often subconsciously) what the effects of decisions about exposure, camera moves and lighting will be.
Now how do you teach that? I'd say, put the heavy tech talk about how to set lights and flags last (I learned it all very quickly on the set), and watch films. Talk about why you think DPâ€™s and directors made the choices they did and what the impact of those choices are on the film. Have the students make films constantly, and spend a lot of time in critique (and I do mean critique, not patting everyone on the back).
A DP who is an artist with cinematic ideas to communicate with the world will be a far better DP than one who is a master craftsman but has nothing to say. So help the young DP's of the world figure out what they have to say, first and foremost, and they'll be better DPâ€™s for it.
Oh, and teach them how to shoot proper tests!!! If there's one thing I see a decided lack of in a lot of DPâ€™s, and especially in young ones, it's ignorance about how to shoot a test that yields meaningful information.
DP San Francisco
Thank you all who've replied both on the forum and by direct email.
Although it's dangerous when we all agree (...) it seems to me we are on the same page: work with students on the mystery and magic of cinematography, work on how we tell stories visually, work with them to develop their own ideas, their hunches, their love. Along the way, bring in the tech stuff so when they graduate they have at lest some of the tools to make it happen on screen. And work on attitude.
director of photography
Since my last post, I've received several direct email which emphasize ATTITUDE, set ETTIQUETTE, and BASIC KNOWLEDGE of how to do the simple things we all take for granted but which are totally foreign to the untrained kid.
I've urged these wonderful emailers to post here too.
director of photography
Frazer Bradshaw wrote :
>"fine art filmmaking." To clarify what "fine art filmmaking" is, let just say >that at the Art Institute, a filmmaker is pretty much .just like a painter;
It is not that one gave Rembrandt some paint and a brush, and he painted the Nightwatch. A painter, just like a cinematographer, needs to work on his skills to become good. Where do I need to put my model, how do I mix my paints...
Most university types of film schools, work this way "here's a camera, light... shoot", and the people leaving them, think they are so good, but they hardly learn anything about the real world out there.
I studied at a film school, where there was a huge emphasis on training "like the real world": sniffing a bit on everything in the first year, and specialise in the second year. During, and after my study, I worked at shoots with plenty of people who studied at uni's where they got a master-degree or whatever, but those kind of shoots where always disastrous. Messy, running enormously overtime, just terrible, because they weren't taught anything about working hours, no skills in crew management, those practical kind of things.
The only difference I could detect is that they usually turned out directors with better ideas, than the ones coming from my school.
Maastricht, the Netherlands
"Now I want you to say it thrice daily and don't dress a bun"
> Thank you all who've replied both on the forum and by direct e-mail.
It sounds like the collection would make for a good web page.
>A painter, just like a cinematographer, needs to work on his skills to >become good. Where do I need to put my model, how do I mix my >paints...
True, but painting, unlike filmmaking, is fairly intuitive. One can learn how to use the technology pretty well by doing it, which is most unlike filmmaking. Painting is just not a "technical" medium, and film just plain is.
>but those kind of shoots where always disastrous. Messy, running >enormously overtime, just terrible, because they weren't taught anything >about working hours, no skills in crew management, those practical >kind of things.
I still end up working on those sorts of things from time to time. When it's too late, I realize that they don't have a production manager, and it turns into one giant headache for myself, the AC and my gaffer (usually the three professionals). Ironically, the films we end up making often turn out to be very good; on average, much better conceptually than proper productions. Perhaps it's because the director is so ignorant of "filmmaking" that he/she doesn't realize what he/she shouldn't be doing and comes up with very good ideas that are way outside the box.
>The only difference I could detect is that they usually turned out directors >with better ideas, than the ones coming from my school.
How a set should run, how to use lights, etc are all skills that can be learned on the set for free (heck, you might even get paid to learn them); that's how I learned them. On the other hand, art is very difficult to learn in a production environment, and what school is (hopefully) good for.
BTW, I do wish I'd gotten more technical training in school, it would have been great, but not at the expense of the art education that I got. Film schools seem to stress one or the other and not both, and that's unfortunate.
DP San Francisco
The film school grads I've worked with and really delivered were the ones who think on their feet, do problem solving, have (or have developed) innate sense of mechanics, proportion, aesthetics.
I don't care much if they can parrot jargon and brand names.
I can teach someone what a meataxe is, right ?
Once before a very intricate dark. tight space interior I sent everyone on my student and recently ex-student crew B&W photocopies of de La Tour paintings. This was not to copy La Tour of course but it was about a way of *thinking* about light in a difficult scene. **Here's a candle lamp, a single source, see what it does; here's two sources, look at them individually and then note the overall effect of this** the point being that it's less important if we were gonna use Tweenies or small Arri Fresnelâ€™s or Peppers (the reality was in my discount deal w/ the rental house I'd get whatever DIDN'T go out on their trucks with large orders - gotta be flexible - so not what units) but *how* to see & how to use - not what make of light but how the light falls on things, and from where.
Following from that, set etiquette then is really form follows function, know what I mean ?
On the same project my nominated AC was the guy responsible for equipment checkout at the nearby community colleges film program. If he can keep a dozen student-used Bolexes running he can learn my camera, I don't care if he's never used an Arriflex camera -- open it up, here's the claw, pin, that's the loop - if you know why the latham loop (let's run film at 6 fps and see what it DOES). (I ended up trusting him wit my camera more than I trust myself with it in a stressed situation *that's* an AC to my way of thinking). Anyway, from there, Bolex Rex 5,
Panavision Platinum, same physics.
I could go on in this vein, but....
>A painter, just like a cinematographer, needs to work on his kills to >become good. Where do I need to put my model, how o I mix my >paints...
Not to belabour this issue, but don't you think we should make a distinction between "filmmaking" and "cinematography".
There's many a very fine filmmaker who would have difficulty getting work as a cinematographer, and many a very fine cinematographer who has never made a film.
IA 600 DP
>What you learn of those crafts is in no way as good as working, and >being paid for it, at the feet of the masters."
This comment from David Samuelson set me thinking... "Sammys" was THE rental company when I was at film school in the UK between 1976 and 1979. (It was bought and amalgamated into Panavision in the UK a few years back). When I was a student I spent a lot of time with Doris who ran the filter department. She introduced me to the mysteries of the difference between a Harrison Double Fog and a Tiffen Light Frost and all those other wonderful filters! Sammyâ€™s pretty much lent me any cameras and equipment that I asked for and I spent many years thanking them for their generosity by renting from them when I started shooting in 1980.
The point of this short personal history is that the relationship between Film Student and the Professional World can and should exist: it was these encounters with "Professionals" that made my stay at the NFTS so exciting. We hired in our own tutors from our "tutor budget" and made films from our "film budget". David and others have also mentioned "a little bit of this and a little bit of that" as though this is not such a great idea, whereas in fact it is precisely these experiences that make Film school so different from Making the Tea. If I am any good as a DP it is in large part because I spent over a year making a student film of my own (a 70minute b/w drama in 16mm), and EDITED many other films for my fellow students. Then, to cap it all, when I left the school my fellow students who were Directors employed me to shoot for them: the contact with my peer group was crucial.
I agree in principal with Davidâ€™s sentiments, but when you learn at the feet of the Master, you can sometimes remain at the feet of the Master. But more importantly you actually can't learn anything about Editing which is the only place to be to find out just what all your great shot ideas meant when it's cut together. In the last 25 years some of my crews are now DP's and some are not: one or two fell badly when they went "up the ladder" and life became very difficult.
So in short here are my answers to Rick's original question:
"What did you learn that did you any good when you got out into the working world of cinematography? "
I learnt how to work in a team, how to "make it work", whatever the circumstances.
"What did you learn that got in your way?"
The "professionals" were portrayed as a tough, evil and scary bunch of blokes who would eat you alive if you got anything wrong. Whilst this turned out to be true of a couple of people, most of my colleagues were incredibly helpful during my first few years.
As we all know, DP's are a curious mixture of Artist, Scientist and Diplomat. In the old days there was only one way to make it: now there are several. Personally I don't think that any one route is any better or worse than another: there's just your own route and making that work for you is the key.
Sam wrote :
>...but *how* to see & how to use - not what make of light but how the >light falls on things, and from where.
I think that's something very often under-appreciated by many cinematographers, young and old, film-schooled or not.
In NYU, we used to do lighting exercises (which I TA'd) that looked at practical differences between the hard light and soft light on an egg carton or a face. Positioning of the light taught us about texture and how different lighting and it's position effected it. Another exercise was to look at a face keyed from one side and then the other side. Amazing how a face lighted from opposing sides look like two different people. But these exercises more often looked at light and objects rather than the wide shot. Scenes on sets were lighted. But this often taught lighting simply to cover the actors action in a scene.
But what I, in hindsight, wish we had learned was to look at the lighting in terms of how it complements compositional elements in a shot. This, to me, is what the great masters taught us. So a good background in the history of art, cinematography, and photography is very helpful in learning to see light and to appreciate it's convictions. Many of the great cinematographers I had the fortune to work with during my gaffers years often had great backgrounds in art history.
> But what I, in hindsight, wish we had learned was to look at the lighting >in terms of how it complements compositional elements in a shot.
Well this is why I'm a great believer in the 'start with one light, really think that light thoroughly, and build a light at a time' approach. Especially in teaching/learning.
>painting, unlike filmmaking, is fairly intuitive. One can learn how to use >the technology pretty well by doing it, which is most unlike filmmaking.
Anyone who's spent a few years at a good art or design school or apprenticed to a fine painter or illustrator might take issue with this generalization.
Brian Heller writes:
>There's many a very fine filmmaker who would have difficulty getting >work as a cinematographer, and many a very fine cinematographer who >has never made a film.
Actually, "filmmaker" is one of those ill-defined terms that means very different things in different bailiwicks. As a hands-on producer/director/shooter/editor I consider myself a "filmmaker," but the term is often applied to feature directors, executive producers and so forth, who have never touched a piece of production equipment. They're "filmmakers" in the sense that architects or finance companies might be thought of as "housebuilders."
Marin County, CA
Frazer Bradshaw wrote :
>True, but painting, unlike filmmaking, is fairly intuitive. One can learn >how to use the technology pretty well by doing it, which is most unlike >filmmaking.
WOW!!!! Um . . . . No.
I don't believe this is a true statement in regards to any artistic endeavour. Anyone can pick up a camera and shoot stuff, and anyone can pick up a paint brush and put paint on a canvas. That has nothing to do with whether there is any thought, intuition, skill, or sense of the aesthetic involved. I do not believe that one can simply "learn" to be a good cinematographer NOR "learn" to be a good painter (well . . .other than painting the side of your house).
I do both, and like to think that I'm 'learning' to do them pretty well, but I am fully cognizant of the fact that I have had a particular 'sense' or intuition since before I "knew" anything about painting or lighting. I'm no master of either, but I feel things outside of my intellect and knowledge that contribute greatly to both disciplines.
O.k. - this may come across as arrogant - but that's o.k. My 'painting' website is www.restevensart.com Look it over and think about whether just anyone can simply 'learn' to do it.
Frazer Bradshaw wrote:
> True, but painting, unlike filmmaking, is fairly intuitive. One can learn >how to use the technology pretty well by doing it, which is most unlike >filmmaking.
I had the pleasure of taking a visual aesthetics course in grad school this past semester. What I learned clearly is in disagreement to your statement.
Sure you can pick up a brush, and use it. You can learn what works for you, so too can you learn to wield a camera. However to us it well, there must be study.
Whether that study formalized and from a teacher, or you observe your own work and its impact, these are two different paths. However I was taught that Diego Rivera (among others) went to Europe to study "Classical" painting to learn the "secrets" of composition, even though his work did not resemble "classical" paintings.
Intuitive or not, to excel you need study and practice.
El Museo del Prado offered a fine course in cinematography for just the price of admission.
New York Based Cinematographer
>Painting is just not a "technical" medium, and film just plain is.
I really must disagree with that. My wife teaches painting. I think you would be surprised at how technical it is, not only with colour theory, paint mediums, surfaces, and all the technical aspects of understanding and portraying form but issues of eye scan and all the related compositional things we photographers and cinematographers also deal with -- the list goes on and on. Even having lived with a painter for twenty years, I'm still surprised when I listen to her talking to other painters, even abstract painters -- so many subjects one would never even guess existed.
In fact one could argue that painting composition is more technical as everything is a decision and "created" whereas with a camera we can, if we wish, walk around until we find a lucky accident.
Painting is no less a technical subject than is photography for filmmaking. In both cases you can give someone a brush and paints or you can give them a camera and they will come back with "something." First time results are often surprisingly interesting because the students just look around and intuitively find something that will photograph well, is easy to do and interests them.
(I am highly suspicious of the term "we did great things because we didn't know they couldn't be done." I just read an article about some guys who do a children's show. They said they did things because they didn't know they couldn't be done -- except they have been doing the
show for several years now.)
I also want to see what students do when given a specific objective. "Art" filmmaking (which I do myself on occasion) benefits from having no other defined goal than what interests the artist (although in the end it must achieve a particular artistic goal otherwise why would anybody want to look at it?) Filmmaking as most of us practice it generally has a specific goal: entertainment, sales, information, all of them done "artistically" of course.
Yes, you can grab some paints and a brush and do interesting things. You can grab a fully automatic still camera or put a DV camera on full auto and get some interesting things. You can also go out with a full crew, a 40 footer of lighting/grip and an 35mm camera and shoot something insanely boring.
This is not the point : the point is whether or not they can achieve specific goals : artistic, commercial or otherwise. At the school where I teach part time, I get to watch the students doing their projects the first time they get their hands on a camera and then a year later when they are doing thesis work so I have had the chance to observe their development in all areas. I have observed that the first time film is a fairly poor predictor of future growth, just as a first time feature is an unreliable indicator of the long term potential of a director or DP (not entirely without value, but not a good predictor.)
Some students do something weird and wildly "creative" just to make an impression on the teacher and fellow students. Others set a specific goal for themselves, are ambitious and then fail because they don't have the practical knowledge to achieve it. By the way, when I say practical knowledge in this case, I am not at all referring to exposure, lighting, audio or any of those things, I'm talking about telling a story with pictures -- it's a far more "technical" subject than we give it credit for.
Storytelling itself can be an inborn "natural" skill. Telling that story with a camera is something that requires specific skills. Yes, some few have picked up those skills through mere observation, but that is rare.
As I often tell the students (directors especially): lots of people get a chance to make a first movie. Surprisingly few people get a chance to make a second movie. The first one can get produced on bluster and BS. After that, they can see what you can actually do. Likewise, new directors, when it comes to assessing their long term career potential "in the industry" are more often judged by their sophomore film rather than their first film, which time and time again turns out to be a one-time non-repeatable burst of creative energy and ideas. Too often it turns out to be a self-consuming nova rather than a new star.
The method we use is one that several schools employ: we alternate classroom/studio/lab work with production periods where they actually do films.
I have always strenuously objected to the "give them a camera and let them go" style of teaching. That's how my first photography course went and even though it was taught by a well-known photographer, I found it of minimal value. Especially as I worked in the field as a photo assistant and encountered people who had taken more rigorous training.
For me, teaching filmmaking and cinematography in particular is all about not only finding the balance between "art" and "technical" but also finding way so integrating them so they don't seem like two "separate" subjects.
Dan Drasin wrote :
>"filmmaker," but the term is often applied to feature directors, executive >producers and so forth, who have never touched a piece of production >equipment.
But is a banker considered an architect or a carpenter?
Ok, I seem to have really opened a can of worms with the painting analogy. At risk of creating more debate and further removing the thread from cinematography :
I have done a fair amount of painting (oil, acrylic and watercolour), and I spent 8 years in art school (including three years at a fine arts high school). I have a great deal of respect for the medium, and arguing that it isn't a technical one, comes with no disrespect. When I use the word "technical," I mean that to actually make the technology work to the end it is intended (formally speaking) there is a body of knowledge that one must have. Basic painting technique means squeezing a tube of paint, getting paint on a brush (or another tool) and brushing the paint onto a surface. Basic cinematography (or filmmaking, if you will) means learning to use and understand camera technology, lighting technology, etc, which is somewhat more difficult to grasp than that of painting. My argument has nothing to do with the art (composition, content, etc) of using either medium.
I guess the crux of my argument is: put a tube of the finest oil paint and a nice brush in front of a 4 year old and they will likely be able to make something called a painting with no prior knowledge of painting. Put a consumer mini DV camera and a blank cassette (much less a 435, a light meter and 1000' of stock) in front of the same kid and you'll probably not get anything.
DP San Francisco
Frazer Bradshaw wrote :
>(much less a 435, a light meter and 1000' of stock) in front of the same >kid and you'll probably not get anything.
I think you will get 1000' of fogged film!
Stephen Williams DoP
Frazer Bradshaw wrote:
>Basic cinematography (or filmmaking, if you will) means learning to use >and understand camera technology, lighting technology, etc, which is >somewhat more difficult to grasp than that of painting
That's where your analogy breaks down. You can do some decent cinematography without lighting and by putting a DV camera on automatic. Or at the most pointing a light meter and saying "it says 2.8" Focusing is easy.
We like to present the illusion that just to get a basic shot, you have to know all kinds of arcane information. The truth is that you need to know lots of stuff to practice it professionally and do it well and make it sing, but the basic basics are not much more difficult than gessoing a canvas, mixing turpentine and mixing some colours to they eye.
It is possible to use a video camera on full auto and do some beautiful stuff. Not professional, perhaps not even any good, but it is possible. At the basest, most primitive level, most art forms can be utterly simple. I can take a chisel and whack away at some marble, that doesn't mean I'll be Michelangelo.
As the lady says "Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. That don't make me Madonna."
The "techniques" I teach in the beginning class don't even relate to optics or film loading or exposure. I teach them things like how to do a subjective POV and make it work in the scene. That is a two-hour class right there. We forget all the things you have to get right to do that properly. As pro's we are not aware of all the things we need to know to do the simplest shots and make them work in a scene.
Frazer Bradshaw writes :
>I guess the crux of my argument is: put a tube of the finest oil paint and >a nice brush in front of a 4 year old and they will likely be able to make >something called a painting with no prior knowledge of painting.
The other day I was at the local Apple Store, when a mother wheeled in with her wee toddler in a stroller. The kid couldn't have been more than 18 months old, but when she was wheeled in front of the kids' iMac table, reached immediately for a mouse, and started clicking away skilfully. I'd sure like to give that kid a DV camera when she reaches the ripe old age of four.
Whether she'd have any interest at all in the fully-loaded 435 (a great, clanking, anachronistic hunk of mechanical engineering that probably weighed far more then she did) is doubtful, but who knows?
Dan "out of the mouse of babes..." Drasin
Marin County, CA
Blain writes :
>You can do some decent cinematography without lighting and by >putting a DV camera on automatic.
And you can even produce superb documentaries with footage shot on automatic. Cinematography, like painting, has a huge number of facets. In any given context, some of those facets take priority. Sometimes technical and photographic perfection are indispensable, but at other times content will get you an Oscar where technical perfection alone will get you polite applause from your peers and not a whole lot more.
Marin County, CA
>My 'painting' website is www.restevensart.com . Look it over and think >about whether just anyone can simply 'learn' to do it.
Looks as if you just picked up a brush and threw some paints on the canvas, Rod. Nuthin' to it!
Just kidding -- your paintings are fabulous.
Marin County, CA
The best thing I learnt at Film School was during a workshop in Cinematography by Freddie Francis. - He taught us to look at the light and what it was doing - instead of trying to do everything by the book and constantly taking light-meter readings! - In fact at one point he got so angry he snatched the light meter out of a student DOP's hands threw it on the floor and pretended to jump on it!
His point was that people were just randomly taking light meter readings as though that would tell them what the light was doing - he pointed out that your eyes tell you what the light is doing! He lit a hairdressing scene for us and it was very contrasty to the naked eye - we all thought it would look like something out of one of his Hammer Horror films but when we watched the rushes it was perfect - the style of the scene was more high key Hollywood and that is what it looked like - his lighting just added some depth and shadows it was brilliant!!!
> Cinematography by Freddie Francis. - He taught us to look at the light >and what it was doing - instead of trying to do everything by the book
Anna, you took the words right out of my mouth. Well, okay, I never got to study under Freddie Francis! But I went to film school after having worked a bit in local TV, where I was taught all kinds of rules and formulas, but was frustrated because I was never satisfied by the results, no matter how carefully I measured and metered.
Fortunately, I had a prof who gave me very similar advice - look at the subject!!
Completely changed my outlook.
Frazer Bradshaw wrote :
>How a set should run, how to use lights, etc are all skills that can be >learned on the set for free (heck, you might even get paid to learn >them); that's how I learned them.
Lucky you. I have worked in Australia (Sydney) for a few years, and there you had one chance to prove yourself. If you turned out to be the person asking "how does a tallboy look like?", you only worked once for such a crew. The only thing left, was working on student productions. Granted, you can learn a bit there, but to be able to succeed well in a professional environment, you needed to have a good base when you entered when you left school. The latter is a thing which you hear on CML frequently. Do a search in the archives for "set
>On the other hand, art is very difficult to learn in a production >environment, and what school is (hopefully) good for.
Yes, school is fabulous for that. It won't financially ruin you, if you blow it (shared risk). But making mistakes at film school, will attach a name to you. Which doesn't matter if you are a foreign student, and go back home after you finished the course, but if you are local, it will follow you. Trust me, I have seen this happen over and over again.
>BTW, I do wish I'd gotten more technical training in school, it would have >been great, but not at the expense of the art education that I got.
You can combine both actually. When young people ask me about film school, my answer depends on what they want. For below the line work, a technical school + practicing and observing, is enough. For above the line (DP, director), a technical school as a base, and then go to an art-school/uni to learn the creative work. The ones who did technical school beforehand, better understand the process of filmmaking, and know a bit better what a lens does, and that you can't 12mm lens won't give you a close-up of a guy 50ft away.
Maastricht, the Netherlands
"Now I want you to say it thrice daily and don't dress a bun"