10 THINGS I LEARNED IN FILM SCHOOL | BY ROOSTER

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It has been half a year since I graduated from Toronto’s Ryerson University’s Film studies program and I decided to conduct a list of some things I learned during my time in this 4 year Bachelor of Arts program. In all honestly, most of the knowledge was gained by personal experience outside of the school but the school did provide insight to relevant, important information as well. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Ryerson and do miss having classes and creating short films on the regular but I’m also grateful to have all the time in the world to focus on my own personal creative projects such as maintaining this film blog I started 3-4 years ago.

  1. Do not mistake the difference between a film and a movie, and never call your own film a movie unless you make money from it, for there is a difference between art for arts sake and art for the sake of commercial enterprise. I had this really strict Belgian professor named Gerda Cammaer in my first year of film school that truly influenced my psyche as far as the way I were to view and understand films, especially in the experimental and film noir genre. In first year, we worked with 16mm film, directing, producing and editing our own short 100 feet black and white kodak films that were projected in class by this professor who would then rip us apart and critically analyze the shit out of these short montages, and we loved her for it.tumblr_nx9hud7lAd1uy1uyro1_500
  2. Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. Get familiar with the three act structure if you wish to tell a good tale: Act 1 – you establish a problem, Act 2 – you complicate the problem, Act 3 – you resolve the problem. Look out for this structure in common feature length films and observe for your own means of inspiration. If you are a writer, remember that a flawed protagonist is far more interesting than a perfect one. By the first act you should have established the world of the protagonist, the enticing incident and WHAT IS AT STAKE? Make sure your story is not lacking tension and your characters have a background story before you even write the screenplay. And read the screenplay out loud god-dammit, sometimes whatever you write in your head will sound terrible when performed out loud.tumblr_nxel83S2EP1r67g0xo1_500
  3. Pre-production is one of the hardest parts of the film creating process. One of the first steps to getting a film out there is creating a pitch and this is your ticket to getting your screenplay or story recognized, funded and made. The pitch should include a good logline, establish the genre, setting, story and plot line and the characters involved. There are many resources and books on how to write and present a good pitch. Always prepare an elevator pitch that quickly tells what you’re attempting to create, as you never know who you run into that could contribute to your idea. In this business, it is very much who you know and what resources you have access to. Attend any film networking events you can find and get yourself into, as people are always looking to collaborate and co-create.
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  4. You don’t need big expensive equipment to create something profound and interesting. Sometimes the simplest ideas end up being the most interesting, intriguing and complex films. Of course it’s great to have industry standard equipment and if your budget stands for it, you should rent that RED camera and Zeiss Lens kits but a simple DSLR can also do the job as long as whatever you are shooting is worthy of your time to capture. Not suggesting that quality doesn’t matter because it does and difference can be felt when comparing visuals and cinematography, however it all depends on the project you are working on and what elements are most important to your story. There are already people out there creating feature length films just with their cellphones, so never take your lack of equipment as a cause for your lack of motivation to create. Never stop creating if you wish to succeed in this field.tumblr_nyfu7kShW61v05zhfo1_500tumblr_nwwi2lXsGA1u6osmfo1_500
  5. “We’ll fix it in post” is one of the most commonly used and joked about terms on a film set, its also one of the worst excuses for not getting the job done the first time around. Ideally you should make sure that all ends are covered during the pre-production phase to avoid compromising and cutting out scenes during the production phase.giphy
  6. Without a good editor, you will not have a good product because the editor is the sculptor of the film medium. A good editor knows exactly when to cut and will not rely on effects and fancy transitions. Though if such effects are required, they know how to make it not cheesy.tumblr_nxz21jf4wR1rp0vkjo1_500
  7. Always shoot extra B-ROLL footage to be used as cutaways, particularly for action scenes. It provides more opportunity for the editor to improve pacing and dramatic tension during editing.tumblr_o0byps4EqB1rq47qto1_500
  8. REHEARSAL IS EVERYTHING. In the pre-production phase, a good director will spend enough time with their actors to make sure they are prepared for their roles, not only physically but mentally as well. But rehearsal is not just for the actors! During a set, you must initiate the process of blocking movements of actors and the camera, usually marked down by different colours of tape and even the cinematographer must rehearse and mentally prepare for the scenes they are to shoot. “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”tumblr_nxf3f4xZwX1qd3lbbo1_500
  9. Learn the film lingo before you get on a set or else you will be turning your head sideways like a stray dog. You should also have an idea what every one’s job title is on set. For example a Craft person is someone who deals with providing food on set, a craft table is where you will find the food on a set. A Gaffer is a light technician that deals with lighting. A Key Grip is the head rigger on set, a best boy is the second most important grip on set. Lunch is a meal served to the crew regardless of the time of day. Give me some love is asking for electrical power. A Martini shot is the last shot of the day. There must be a whole booklet on set lingo. The best way to learn though is becoming a PA (production assistant) on any film set. I probably learned more on my first day of a real film industry set than I did in a whole year of film school.
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  10. Film is a director’s medium; television is a writer’s medium. Have an idea of what it is exactly you wish to do and do everything in your power to gain the necessary skills to be able to do whatever you set your mind to. All experience is good experience as long as you learn from it. The worst films I made in film school were the most I learned from. The best I felt on a film set is when I knew my job inside out and went beyond what was expected of me just because of the passion involved. Do not lose your passion and drive by taking on jobs that mentally drain you, even if it relates to your field, make sure you listen to your intuition.There is most definitely a lot more that could be said about the wonderful world of image-making, however I shall leave the rest for another day. Thank you for checking it out and “like” our facebook page to stay updated on new articles and events.tumblr_nyugkxXupy1qd3lbbo1_500
  • http://politicalfilm.wordpress.com/ polfilmblog

    So I’m to take advice from someone who doesn’t know the difference between Zeus and Zeiss?

    • Rooster

      Haha thanks for the look-out, definitely know the difference but sometimes fob moments occur. This article is more of a reflection but even better if people can take away advice from it. Have a great day ;)