Are those '2 day' film schools any good?
Internet Filmmakers' FAQ
The recent explosion of interest in the indie film sector has brought with it a small but increasing posse of filmmaking evangelists, offering crash courses that suggest you could be the next Tarantino. Whilst in theory there is absolutely nothing wrong with the idea, it might be worth considering several things before parting with your hard-earned dosh for one of these seminars.
Firstly, do you need it? Most of these courses lean more towards the motivational than the material. Obviously you can't teach skills in two days - they are honed over years of practice. So the important question to ask yourself is: do I want to pay to be motivated? Or more importantly, do I need to be motivated by someone else? If you do, you may be looking at the wrong career path anyway.
Secondly, just who is 'teaching' this course and what is their experience? Sadly, the boom in this film training cottage industry has attracted a few less-than-honest operators. It's not uncommon for these "insider" courses to be run by people who have yet to produce a feature film or sell a script (whilst this may not necessarily discount the value of the course, you've got to wonder...), and more worryingly, one or two instances of courses which are outright financial scams.
So should you sign up for one of these courses? It's perhaps best to think of the whole idea in this way: are you going to come out of a two day course in law, medicine or nuclear physics as an absolute guru? Of course not. Filmmaking is a complicated and time-consuming craft; and like any field, it takes more than just a quick course to make you an expert. It will be a very rare situation indeed, that you leave such a course with all of the necessary skills to be a successful filmmaker.
Good advice would be instead of spending the hundreds (sometimes thousands) on fees for these courses, channel some of this money into purchasing yourself some camera gear (DV... 16mm... video... ANYTHING), and a couple of introductory books on the subject. You will probably find that this is a much more valuable (and cheaper) exercise. If you are serious about film school, get yourself into at least a one year course at a reputable institution. Remember, there's no substitute for experience, and experience doesn't come from spending a couple of days basking in the glory of a filmmaking evangelist.
As a final note, the answer to this question does not, of course, relate to specialised short courses which can be invaluable in honing your existing skills.