At other festivals when we started to ask people what film school they went to (if any), we noticed that a lot of those who didn't go to film school wanted to talk about who their mentors were. When we asked Tribeca filmmakers who their inspirations and mentors were, they were eager to respond, whether they went to film school or not. Here are their answers:
Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek ("In God We Trust"): Making our mockumentary comedy, "Cook Off," was a crash course in film making and we came out the other side with a practical hands on education in film. Since we started making films in 2006, we have been lucky enough to work with a diverse group of incredible people like Gore Vidal, Wendi McClendon Covey, Christian Bale and Susanne Rostock and so many others. Each one of them in their own way have contributed to us as filmmakers.
Rachel Boynton ("Big Men"): I went to Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. I started in the broadcast department there, but ultimately I switched to print. The J-school did have a documentary concentration, but at the time you had only one semester to make a film. I felt like the turn around was so fast I wouldn’t have time to make the sort of film I wanted to make. So I focused on improving my writing.
When I left the J-school I got a job working as an AP for Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson, two hard-core vertité documentarians. They taught me a ton. Then I worked for Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker who were completely different from Michael and Shari but equally talented. Louis and Andy are really funny and they make even the most intellectual subject matter completely accessible.
I learned a lot from working for other people. And I spent a ridiculous amount of time watching movies.
Andy Capper ("Lil Bub & Friendz"): Leo Leigh & Jake Burghart
Arvin Chen ("Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"): I've been extremely lucky enough to have had two great mentors in my life, Edward Yang and Wim Wenders. My first job in film was apprenticing with Edward in Taiwan after college, and Wim was the executive producer on my first feature. I learned a great deal about filmmaking from both of them, but more importantly, saw how two different types of directors with entirely different creative processes work, and how that affects the type of films they make. I think about them both all the time when struggling with my own projects.
Adam Ciralsky ("The Project"): I came to film from the fast-paced world of television news and was lucky enough to work with and learn from some incredible correspondents (Ed Bradley, Mike Wallace, Lesley Stahl, Brian Williams and Lisa Myers) and fantastic executives and producers (Don Hewitt, Steve Capus, David Gelber and Rich Bonin).
Scott Coffey ("Adult World"): David Lynch
Laurie Collyer ("Sunlight Jr"): Professor Mentors from [NYU] included: Boris Frumin, Sam Pollard, Carol Dysinger, Mick Casale. These days I teach at the New School and get notes and feedback from many of my students. All of my collaborators give me great notes, as well. I cannot write without using readers.
Sean Dunne ("Oxyana"): I studied cinema at Purchase College but never attended a proper film school. No one accepted me because I was 18 and had no idea what I was doing. After college I worked as a writer/producer at the history channel for about 4 years. Those experiences were my film school. I was given the opportunity to interview a lot of different people and learned how to tell a story through my time there.
Lance Edmands ("Bluebird"): Sundance Institute, Cinereach, San Francisco Film Society, Christine Vachon, Susan Shopmaker
Juliette Eisner ("Lil Bub & Friendz"): VICE hallway gossip; [co-director] Andy Capper
Rob Epstein ("Battle of amfAR"): Never went to film school, have always learned on the job. And I'm still learning on the job. That's part of the joy of it, as well as the torment. But I had great mentors all along the way, such as Peter Adair on Word Is Out and Richard Schmiechen on The Times of Harvey Milk.
Sam Fleischner ("Stand Clear of the Closing Doors"): Anthology Film Archives
Josh Fox ("Gasland Part II"): I learned on the job from Jim McKay and Paul Mezey while making my first feature film, Memorial Day. I have been in the theater for most of my life, writing/devising/directing over 20 full length works for the stage with my company International WOW. I have had the benefit of amazing teachers and mentors including Debra Winger, Anne Bogart, Tadashi Suzuki, Edward Tayler, Morgan Jenness, Yoko Ono, Robert Woodruff, Charles M. Mee, Jr., Ellen Lauren and SITI Company, Kazuo Ohno, Joel Doerfler.
Jeffrey Friedman ("Battle of amfAR"): I learned by assisting some great editors, including Larry Silk on the Oscar-winning documentary Marjoe, Dede Allen on a short piece directed by Arthur Penn, and Thelma Schoonmaker on Raging Bull.
Claudio Giovannesi ("Alì Blue Eyes"): After graduating, I sneaked onto the sets of Matteo Garrone, the director of Gomorra, to see how he worked.
At any rate, I always think that taking a documentary approach is very useful for developing a fiction project. I always try to learn as much about the real-life setting that I want to talk about.