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.

Answer by Benjamin Craig  |  Last updated 20-Jan-2005

Comments

Older Comments

AAA  |  07-Aug-2008
Oh Boy ...If anything its the above advice you should be weary of, not the 2 day film schools. Buy a camera and some books??? One question: Then what? If you think you're gonna have buyers remorse after a two day film school at $400, just wait till you open your shiny new camera and havent the foggiest idea of what to do next (at $1000). There are cams under $1000, right? Sure, go and buy one then not only will you not know what to do with it when you get it but when you finally do get some education no doubt you'll have found out you bought the wrong KIND of cam ; ) Excellent! As far as, "buy some books" goes. If you're wildly lucky and happen to get one of the better books out there chances are it will have been written buy guess who? The same guy that teaches the 2 Day Film School. Believe it! You're not going to gain thorough technical knowledge in any of these schools, you wont be able to walk out and operate a 35MM film cam etc. But you will get an overview of filmmaking, in-depth, enough for you to feel confident enough to take the next step and know what comes next. As far as Dov S S Simens, I would be as interested in a Simens instructional project as I would be in a Spielberg film project. Both of them are top notch communicators, and very entertaining.
Robert Elliott  |  19-Jul-2007
The 2 day classes are valuable. There are surprisingly few books that give a good overview of the entire filmmaking process and the film business. A two day course can give you the background information that you need to begin to understand this complex business. It can get you pointed in the right direction and that makes the class worthwhile. (Robert Elliott, Instructor Wikiversity Film School and former student of one of the two day classes.)
Michael Shepherd  |  05-May-2007
Here is a viable alternative: 6 week workshop producing a film with a known Director. More at: http://parosparadise.com/filmmaking.htm
Paddy  |  28-Jun-2005
Motivation, encouragement and contacts! I've seen a couple of these (Dov S-S Simens and Elliot Grove) and you come away with a feeling of possibility and the conviction thet you could actually get started - and getting started is half the battle. These were both Producer's courses. Elliot's course through Raindance.co.uk is <£200, Dov's is <£300 and they have similar coverage with different emphases, and are both *WAY* cheaper than going to film school, so you can spend the balance on film stock to practice with and find your own way, or you could still go to film school, but know it's what you really want to do, not risk 4 years without some insight!