Monday, November 28, 2011

Film School by Steve Bowman

Steve Bowman. Film School: A Memoir That Will Change Your Life. Dallas, Tx.: Benbella Books, Inc., 2011.

Screenwriting courses teach that protagonists must overcome tribulations, the author reports in relating his coursework at the University of Southern California.  This book is the memoirs of someone who overcame difficulties of raising a family and being older than most other students to complete film school and successfully create a TV series.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was created in 1927.  Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. was President.  His first project created an awards system, which is the Academy Awards.  His second project was to create a film school.  The University of Southern California (USC) agreed and became the first film school.  The first course it offered in 1929 was Introduction to Photoplay.  Among the first teachers were Fairbanks, Mark Pickford, Darryl Zanuck, D.W. Griffith, and Ernest Lubitsch.  The USC School of Cinematic Arts has the most film school students in the world with 850 undergraduates and 650 graduate students.  UCLA opened its film school in 1939 and New York University opened its film school in 1965.

A full time USC student takes 8 to 10 credits per semester.  52 credits are required to graduate with a Master of Film Arts in Film Production.  It costs $1,500 per credit or $80,000 in tuition.  Completing film school can cost $150,000 to $200,000 total.

The Production 507 course creates a B to continue in the program.

USC offers a student designed Interdivisional Media Arts and Practice Ph.D. degree. 

The Introduction to Screenwriting course is CTWR 528.

An initial assignment was for students to film a two minute film on a digital camera, which required shooting in order as the film would be shown.

Acting class has a strong basis in acting theory, especially the theories of Uta Hagen.  In the acting class, students had to act and direct.

Film Production class required making short films with limited dialogues.  One film was allowed just one word in eight minutes of film viewing.  The next assignment allowed just one sentence.  Students were to then describe the intentions, synopses, strengths, and weaknesses of each other’s films.  Film should convey information about characters, their directions, relationships with other characters, and make an audience wish to watch.

The author calculated that a four credit course taught in a 341 seat auditorium represented $2 million in tuition for USC.

There is an informal rule that the police won’t hassle a film shoot by film students lacking a permit so long as there are three or less people involved in the shoot.

The permit office FILM MA is described by the author as being slow and ineffective.

Many film people find they may earn a good living working on film sound.

Film was useful in World War II.  16 millimeter film cameras activated when on American airplanes with the planes fired.  This could show exactly what happened.  It could also prove useful for training purposes.

The author notes that film school is very competitive.  Students want to associate with the top level students in hopes of furthering their own careers. 

Much of learning in film school is how well one learns from mistakes.

The author took a course on pitching ideas.  Industry people listened to students pitches.  The author successfully pitched an idea that became a CBS TV series, “Three Rivers”, which aired in 2009 to 2010.

USC provides students with safety guidelines on filmmaking. The author strongly advises they be followed.

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