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Is Film School Worth it?

Wondering whether you should dish out the ten of thousands of dollars necessary for a film degree or post-secondary film study?

Our answer: it depends.

The upside…

As Fanshawe College alumni, the co-owners of OHFP rely heavily on their formal film education to collaborate, effectively and intelligently share ideas and concepts, and create a standard for conduct on set. It’s incredible how sometimes we are able to efficiently communicate complex ideas for shots, visualizing special effects in production, or developing shot-lists or production design.

The additional on-set and post-production vernacular is nice and all, but what we value more are the connections we made within our class and associating programs in the college and subsequent years. We were able to keep our close knit Advanced Filmmaking Facebook group of our 40+ classmates connected over this period of time. It’s been rewarding and proud to see everyone’s success in the industry. These peers have helped us out on set, some becoming integral parts to our sets and some even our key members of productions.

It’s never to late to try to get a post-secondary education. The ages in our class ranged from 18-35 and featured filmmakers seasoned and experienced, a couple international students, some fresh out of high school, while others were simply trying this out to see how they like it.
— Jamara Forbes of Orange Hat Film Productions

The program structure included Film Criticism, Film Noir, Canadian Cinema, Documentary Cinema, Science fiction and fantasy, Adaptation, Genres, Screenwriting, Directing, Production, Cinematography, The Business of Media, Marketing & Distribution, 16mm Film, Red Camera Workshop, 48-Hour Film Challenge, Capstone final film project or internship opportunity upon acceptance.

Jamara’s 48-Hour Film Challenge submission. Each group was given the following: Tagline "A long time ago in a classroom far, far away" Line of Dialogue "It will only hurt for a second" Prop: Headband

Darryl’s 48-Hour film challenge is Carly. A story about a psychologically disturbed girl that is cruelly rejected by the man she is in love with. Enjoy!

Access to software such as:

  • Avid: Media Composer

  • After Affects

  • Final Cut Pro X

  • Davinci Resolve

  • Adobe Encore

  • Microsoft Excel

  • Adobe Photoshop

  • Adobe Premiere

  • Celtx, and more

 

Our class opted to create a custom sweatshirt through the Fanshawe Store for $42 a piece - word of advice: they shrink.

Having access to hands-on experience and even courses dedicated to learning such software for film editing and production was unbelievable. Not to mention the extras like: public transit pass, free Blu-ray rentals, projection rooms, sound libraries, conference rooms, studios, computer labs, editing suites, complementary printing, and endless gear rentals that we took extreme advantage of daily.

Fanshawe collaborates…

three of it's Media Arts programs for the second semester narrative projects, and even just connecting with these fellow artists is valuable. AFM works with the Theatre Arts actors and the sound mixers from the Audio Post Production classes to create dramatic works that are often featured in an end of the year film festival organized by the students.

Click Image to view the short film “Return to Sender”

Directed by Spencer Kring

 

We still hold closely our acting friends made in class. Not only are they looking for exposure, IMDb credits, film reel padding, but each of them are small networks of acting friends they know. We’ve been able to find last minute extras, cast small roles that we could expand upon, or even discover other collaboration avenues such as musicians, composers, voice actors, animators, special effects artists, hair and make-up artists, the list goes on. Our connections continue to multiply in this way and it’s nice to be in a position to finally be able to give something back for their hard work.

Darryl’s final capstone project for Advanced Filmmaking

A Music video directed by Jamara in the Fanshawe College production studio facility.

And it’s not only our friends and actors we’ve kept in contact with, but we’ve since returned to the Fanshawe annual student-run film festival at the Wolf Performance Hall to support subsequent years. We even have a few of our professors and industry mentors on our social media accounts to keep in contact. We recently featured one of our former Filmmaking professors in a small role in our upcoming feature film - all a result of a Facebook message we shot him out of the blue.

Upon graduation we were equipped with the knowledge/ability to:

  • Write and format film scripts to industry standard (Narrative, Documentary)

  • Confidently pitch a film project, create a resume and promote yourself as a freelancer

  • Develop, breakdown, rehearse, and schedule a 5 day film shoot

  • Demonstrate a complex cinematography technical understanding

  • Direct theatre actors, conduct on screen interviews,

  • Deliver a finished product to a client after refining the edit, and polishing the deliverables

  • Enter the film industry workforce as a union permittee, intern, or other possible avenues

The Downside…

Collectively we both spent around $20-30,000 on educating ourselves in film when we could have used this money to: fund our equipment inventory, seed funding for this production company, capital funding for a legitimate feature film… and many other ways we’re sure.

We’re now stuck with student debt, big dreams, and full time jobs not in the film industry.

Creativity was also hindered greatly for the larger projects in our college class productions. Often the scripts that we would write, whether it be too grandiose, too ambitious, too slow paced, or too hard to follow, the professors seemed to showcase the work of those students most favoured. The criticism depending on who gives it can be discouraging and defeating to fresh creative minds trying for the first time to create film.

On top of that, we learned much about entering the film industry as crew members, but never any explanation of how to erect our own independent film company or the business logistics, legal, and provincial requirements to do so. These ideas were touched upon but never discussed in detail or viewed as an achievable goal upon graduation - what we’ve created here with OHFP is not the groomed outcome of the Advanced Filmmaking course.

BUT

We were able to use our recent savings to fund a feature film from scratch, bring it from development through to distribution and find an editor as well as a post-production company to produce the final product.

There’s a pride to having built this company from scratch, but a pain deep down knowing the interest we’re paying each year.

Our current feature film project has 40+ speaking roles, 6+ vehicles, 25+ locations, successfully managing 25+ days on set. We wouldn’t have been able to complete a production anywhere this large (or it wouldn’t be possible) without the contacts and knowledge we gained from film school.

In the end it’s up to you. If you have the funds available to you without stress, nothing’s stopping you! If you’re interested give it a try. On the other hand rather, if you have an existing personal connection in the film industry, perhaps see how far you can get your foot in the door through that channel and get as much free experience as possible to start working up the ranks.

Overall I don’t think we would take back our education. The connections, hands-on knowledge, resources, and confidence in our institution of choice all made our post-secondary film study experience something extremely valuable to us and our future.