by Anthony Kaufman
In the last moments of Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper's "Hearts Of
Darkness" about the making of "Apocalypse Now," there sits Francis Ford
Coppola, graduate of UCLA's film program, speaking about the future of
"To me the great hope is that now these little 8mm videorecorders are
around and people who normally wouldn't make movies are going to be
making them. And suddenly, one day some little fat girl in Ohio is going
to be the new Mozart and make a beautiful film with her father's
camcorder and for once, the so-called professionalism about movies will
be destroyed, forever, and it will really become an art form."
It's seven years later and Coppola's hope for a "little fat girl" genius
is not far off. One doesn't need to live in the capitals of industry to
find a pathway to filmmaking. Community centers and arts programs in
cities across the U.S. can provide some sort of media production,
ranging from the most makeshift consumer video productions to in-depth
seminars on 16 mm film and 3-D Video Animation.
Popping up in many cities, a workshop is waiting for you (or coming to
you). The Hollywood Film Institute's 2 day, $289 crash course travels
from Los Angeles to New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis,
Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Denver, Toronto, London, and Tokyo. Taught by
Dov S-S Simens, the self-titled "Guru of the Low-Budget Film Industry"
and former producer, line producer & production manager, the course is
split up into 2 sections -- "Making the Movie" -- where you discover
"the actual step-by-step process" of "shooting a quality feature film"
and "Selling the Movie" where you can "learn the real method of
marketing, financing and distributing an independent feature
profitably." HFI claims its "graduates go on to produce more films than
graduates of UCLA and USC combined!" But remember, no Arris here, the
two-day worldwide crash course is mere talk. If you want to shoot, you
have to take his Master Class, located only in L.A. and costing from
$389.00 to $589.00.
Many screenwriting teachers tour the country as well,
preaching the gospel of the 3 act structure. Two days and $325 later,
David Freeman will teach you his "200 proven techniques" in Chicago, LA,
NY, and most major U.S. cities (as will industry script development fav,
Robert McKee, 3 days and $450). Recently featured on John Pierson's
"Split Screen," Freeman's course appeared near ridiculous with his
chalkboard drawings and brainstorming techniques prescribing cliches,
rather than uniqueness. Freeman does, however, promise a money-back
guarantee if you're not satisfied after the first day.
In Nashville, Tennessee, the Watkins Film School, much advertised in
magazines ("You don't have to be expensive to be good. You just have to
be good") offers a Professional Certificate, choosing among
specializations in producing, directing, screenwriting, cinematography,
editing, theatrical design and animation. The program exercises an open
admissions policy, meaning anyone who has graduated from high school and
can fill out the application form will be admitted.
The school claims, "Nashville is the second largest producer of music
videos" and its faculty consists of "proven industry professionals": Jim
Mees, Tom Neff, and Steven Womack. Now just because you haven't heard of
these people doesn't mean they're not good teachers. And as every film
student asks themselves, "If my film teacher is so good, why is he
teaching and not making movies?" Contacting someone at Watkins proved
near impossible. Although their service was happy to send another
information packet, it seems there is no direct number to the school.
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