Sunday, June 01, 2008

Writing/Film Schools/AF Tip

Your Angry Filmmaker Tip.

All writing is re-writing.

- - from The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide (coming in Spring 2008)

I don’t believe that I made up that line but I certainly live by it.

Too many Filmmakers believe that unless you’re on the set you’re not making your movie. Bull Shit! Your movie is made in the writing stages, and in pre-production.

Not enough Filmmakers spend time on their scripts, re-writing, getting feedback from people they trust, and then having readings of the script so they can hear how the dialog sounds, and if it flows. Does the story make sense?

No, we have to hurry up and get out on location so people know that we’re filmmakers.

Before I shoot any of my films I probably do 8 or 9 drafts of my scripts. I also send it out to two groups of people I trust. Note I said people I trust. I want my screenplay read by people who are going to be honest with me about the story and the characters. I have 12 people I give my stuff to, in two groups of six. I give draft 5 (or 6) to one group of friends with a questionnaire. I require them to read the entire screenplay at one sitting.

Why one sitting? Because your script should read like a movie plays. People should be able to read it in the time it would take to watch it. That is a rough estimate. (I once spent 5 hours reading a friend’s screenplay that was 160 pages long. It was way too dense.)

I’ll continue this train of thought next week.

I get asked all the time by students and people who want to be filmmakers, “Should I go to Film School?”

It’s a good question and I usually respond by asking people what they want to do. Do they want to write and direct? Do they want to shoot? Edit? Depending on what their answer is determines my answer.

If you want to write and direct I think film school can be a good thing. You can learn about story structure, plot and character development, and how to work with actors. You also get to make mistakes and screw up on your student films, which is great because once you get out you are not allowed to screw up. There is a lot of money riding on what you are doing so it had better be good.

If you want to shoot or light, find a good DP you can learn from and volunteer with them until you have learned enough to go out and start doing it.

If you want to edit I think you should go to film school. Why? Because editing is just as much a craft as any other part of filmmaking. Just because you can use Final Cut, or Avid doesn’t make you an editor. It makes you an operator. Real editors know why they are cutting things certain ways. They are exploring ways to assist in the story telling. Most of the great editors I know can talk about editing in technical terms, philosophical terms, and story telling terms. When I was in school we read Pudovkin and Eisenstein. We watched the French New Wave and saw Godard break the rules, we also read Godard and knew that he knew the rules he was breaking, and why.

Too many people think they can make a movie. It’s not that easy, and making a good movie is even harder.

Do you need to go to film school to make movies. No! Lucas and Spielberg went to film school and their movies suck. They just make lots of money. And if you just want to make money go to LA.

Tarantino didn’t go to film school he just watched movies, and that’s why he is constantly stealing stuff from other films. At least he steals from foreign films.

It’s really up to you if you want to go to film school or not. One of the great things about USC when I was there was that the faculty dumped on the students constantly. We had a 50% drop out rate in my group. They wanted to know how badly you wanted to make films. If you thought it might be fun, or easy, you didn’t last long. They wanted only serious filmmakers. And some of those filmmakers have gone on to make crap. At least they got a good education. (People think I make crap, but at least I make smart crap!)

I guess that’s what I miss. Films like so many other things in our culture have been “dumbed” down. I was trying to find something to see at the theater last week and I failed. I can’t see wasting my money on the crap that is out there. I picked up an old film from the library and loved it.

I wish more filmmakers, if they don’t go to film school, would at least go out and rent old films, classic films and foreign films. I also wish that people would read more. And by reading I mean books. It’s amazing what you can learn from books. Like how to tell a story.

And here is something that has always bothered me. Why are people proud of the fact that they don’t read. Like reading and learning is a bad thing? It certainly says something about our society.

Reading is a great thing! It doesn’t hurt, and you might even learn something! I am at the point anymore where I don’t even care what books people read, as long as they read.

People who want to make films need to step away from their computers and stay out of theaters. They need to read books, and live life. Go out and do things, then make movies about what they know. Too many people are already making movies who obviously don’t know anything. Don’t believe me, check out You Tube, and your local multiplex. Sometimes there’s not much difference in content.

Enough of this, I need to get back to work.

If you get a chance check out an obscure BBC series called Father Ted. There are only 7 episodes (to my knowledge) the main actor had a heart attack and died after the 7th episode was shot. It’s about three priests on this island off Ireland. It is funny, irreverent, and features some wonderful dialog. A true gem of a show that would never be allowed on the air over here.

Don’t forget my Masters Class in Filmmaking this summer through the Franklin Film Institute. Go to for more details. There is still space available.

Find out more about the Angry Filmmaker @ There are a lot of great tips contained in my work books. Buy one and see for yourself. You just might learn something.


Blogger bryan said...

wow. I want to be a director, but right now im in school for animation. I'm not having fun with the people in my school, and the classes arent too good either. only drawing class. but i dont wanna go through 4 other bullshit classes for that one drawing class.

so im thinkin of dropping out. and continuing to learn on my own as ive been doing for the past 5 years. im 18. and i dont want to waste my youth. so i hope i make the right decision

8:20 AM  

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