Sunday, November 8, 2009

DVD Special Features Film School

Almost everyone who starts out in this business wants to be a writer/director. Getting a job in the creative field is hard. Very hard. As one of our cast members would say, "it's about like watching a dog shitting a peach pit." With this in mind, I wanted to share some bits from a conversation I had with a young aspiring writer/director. He's in his early twenties like me, but unlike me, he thinks that you can learn how to make movies and TV shows just by watching the special features that get included with DVD's. How I wish it were that simple.

DVD special features are included with the purchase of a DVD with the simple aim in getting someone to buy it. Distribution companies feel that if a little bit extra gets included with the DVD it may possibly prevent someone from pirating it. And they're right. I know several people who pirate all day long, but they'll go the extra mile to run out and buy for example "Watchmen: the directors cut."

All of this is reinforced by directors, producers, and actors claiming that you can now go to film school just by watching the DVD. Maybe. At least it's a good sound bite. The only problem with this is that DVDs don't teach you how to unfold a C-stand. They don't teach you how to bargain for a higher rate on a deal memo. They don't teach you how to coordinate multiple crews in multiple time zones all moving, shooting, and prepping all across the country, nor do they teach you how to deal with the high levels of stress that comes along with it. Last for now, and perhaps most importantly, neither film school nor George Lucas on the Star Wars special features are going to tell you how to actually get a movie made because doing that requires more than just theory and knowledge of the craft, it requires diligence and charisma beyond what most people would probably ever begin to imagine or to grasp.


  1. I agree, though in some respects it does help hearing how other filmmakers approach their craft. By the way, I might be getting a film major at UAB. It's an individually designed major, but it's still a concentration in film all the same.

  2. Sweet man! Yeah, definately take the flim classes if you want. They will help you get a good basic grasp of what's going on. But Honestly though, and this is just my 2 cents, I'd get a degree in English or something where you write a lot. If that's the side of the industry you are more interested in, you gotta practice and practice and practice it. If you are more interested in the business side, then study business. I don't want to discourage you from getting your major in film, but I you'll get double the mileage out of turning your degree, in whatever field it's in, towards whatever it is you want to do in the film/television industry. That will show the powers that be how adept you are at thinking across borders and such. If you do want to study film, I would suggest doing it in grad school at a place like AFI in LA or Circle in the Square at NYU. Either way though, you'll only be doing it to make contacts. Ask anyone on any crew you work with, if they're really good at their jobs, they'll be able to teach you just as much if not more than you could ever learn at any school. Hope this helps! Good luck!

  3. I'm definitely going for the film major, but I have thought about getting a minor in like Creative Writing or Theatre, both of which I actually considered as majors before I got the email that UAB was gonna offer film as an individually designed major. I've looked up all of the classes that I'm required to take for this major and I think it's very well-rounded. It may not be as hardcore as a film major from like USC or NYU, but when I graduate my degree will be in film all the same.

  4. Cool beans man. Just remember, one of the most meaningless sentences I hear when I interview PA's for a job is, "I went to film school." All the same, good luck for real! I think it's awesome you want to do it.