Why should you join a Film School?

Why should you join a film school? Is it not better to buy your own camera, arrange for a few actors and a location, and shoot your own film? That way you can learn the art and craft of Film making. This can save you both time and money. If we consider that even the shortest Film school education takes up a few months to a year, the consideration of time makes sense. But can you really become a Film maker by making your own film? Without a mentor? Without the support of a Film school? After all, it is about your career and your life.

A Film school is a training ground for an individual to observe, collect, discuss, plan and apply. Under the supervision/mentoring of guides, students find their goals and the paths to reach them. They can have the creative freedom to choose their ideas and can experiment under controlled situations, which may not be possible in the real world. A Film school is a lab to discover the limits of our expressions and the validity of our ideas. Thus, when a student sees that a personal Film fails to connect to anyone but himself, he or she might reject that approach.

More specifically, what do Film schools teach? They talk about training in techniques and aesthetics. What are they and how mutually exclusive are they? Let us explore this issue in detail.

Film schools can ideally be viewed as conservatories where teachers play a mentor’s role. A Film school encourages all kinds of activities related to cinema – a Film club, a critics’ society, a testing ground for techniques and talents and a simulation of the industry outside. A Film school prepares the student to take up any or all of these communicative roles in professional life.

In literature, the tool is the word; in music, notes and beats and in painting, colours. In cinema, it is the image, video and audio. However, a mastery over images does not make one a Filmmaker. It can, at best, make you a good craftsman. The basic goal of any medium of communication is to express. What is in your mind should be laid out in a concrete form for others to see, connect and comment. For cinema, the mode of story as a form of communication works best. Unlike painting, Films gradually unfold in time. So the mould of story, which also works in time, fits them best. Hence, a Filmmaker must know how to tell stories.

In Film schools, the budding storyteller learns this art very well. Storytelling is an inborn tendency but needs finesse. Through comparing of world’s best stories with yours, you can see the path you must take. For the comparison, a mentor is necessary to guide you through the labyrinth of a million and one nights. Just to cut the time of learning short.

A teacher’s role is to show the relation between things. It may be possible for you to learn the relations yourself. But that takes years. A Film school, with its material and cultural resources, helps you to acquire a creative eye, under the mentoring of people who have found their paths. At the same time, you can interact with a variety of fellow travelers, searching for a similar goal. You can learn the most important ideas and skills from your friends in a Film school, things which may never be possible to learn the same way in the industry.

In this regard, Film schools are more like business schools. Unlike literature or painting, Film making is essentially a collaborative activity. This does not deny the fact that solo Film making is possible now more than ever before. One could make a short duration fiction or non-fiction film. However, it takes a lot more time and energy to finish a full length feature Film that way. You need Actors, sets, costumes, lights to design the space and many other accessories. No single person can manage all this at once. Quite obviously, it calls for a hierarchical collaboration, a focused domain knowledge, leadership and a good working knowledge of the human behaviour. All these come from years of experience in the field. However, in a film school, this can be encapsulated through intense programs and by using other peoples’ experience as guide.

Film schools are a good starting point for building professional contacts too. You can make your future team here, just like the Lucas-Spielberg duo. Also, you can meet the industry professionals in the comfort zone of your space. They regularly visit Film schools to conduct workshops or to give lectures. Quite often, big production companies look for freshers from Film schools. One personal encounter can lead to an internship, or better, a collaboration. And then who knows? Only the sky can be the limit.

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