Film School – Triumphs and Failures [Podcast]

Film School – Episode 3

Daniel, a prospective Film School student and aspiring cinematographer, asks Andrew, Cherie, Carlos and I questions about our FSU Film School experience, thoughts on film school in general, and post film school choices.

For more on Film School, be sure to check out FSU Film School Q&As.

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FSU Film School Q&As

I got an email a while ago from a prospective Film School student asking some questions about the film program at Florida State. I figured a lot of people probably have the same questions so I’m sharing my answers below. If you have any additional questions feel free to ask.

(Note: The film program is constantly changing. I suspect the main structure of the curriculum will remain the same, but just keep in mind that by the time you go through the program, things could be completely different.)

1. How much free time do you guys actually have? I hear from absolutely none, to some, to…some more. Do you have enough free time to hang out with non-film students occasionally, or is it really just none?

It’s not as crazy as they make it sound. You’ll have plenty of time to hang out with non-film students. Maybe not as much if you weren’t a film major, but there’s still time.

You go through cycles. You might have a few months of class and workshops a few hours a day, and the rest of the time is free. But once you go into production for a few months, and you’re on set six days a week, 14 hours a day, then the time disappears. But making movies is why you’re here, right?

2. Is the male to female ration really 2:1 for pretty much all film years/classes?

It varies. My class was closer to 1:1, but still male heavy. I think for every class there’s always more guys, but I don’t think it’s been 2:1.

3. Do you get the summer off? One of the administrators on the tour said four consecutive semesters, or 3 and a half years or…something like that. It confused me.

Alright, here’s how it breaks down. If you’re accepted as a Freshmen out of high school, your first year is spent taking the required FSU classes for your degree (Math, English, Science, etc.). I think they started something where you have to volunteer a few hours on set, but for the most part, you don’t really do anything with the film school.

The summer before you start Film School you have off. Then when you start Film School in Fall, it’s full time (Fall, Spring, Summer…Fall, Spring, Summer…Fall) until you graduate in December 2 years later. You get all University holidays off, such as 3 weeks in winter, and 2 weeks before and after summer.

4. Did you and all your classmates really have a 4.0 in high school?

Maybe not 4.0, but most everyone’s was pretty high.

5. Semester abroad…is that not really plausible, or do you just have a specific time in your college career to do it?

Okay, this was one of the lies I was told. While you’re in Film School, you can’t do study abroad. You can either do it the summer before you start Film School (between Freshman and Sophomore year), or stay a semester after you graduate Film School. I heard they might be altering the curriculum to allow study abroad, but as of right now you can’t do it while in Film School.

6. That whole hot meal thing every six hours thing worries me. They say they pay for it, but then some student said they only give you 120 dollars, which does not sound like enough to cover hot meals for a bunch of male film crew.

So the school covers most costs for production (mainly film stock and processing), but it’s still going to cost money. Yes, you need to provide lunch for your crew, along with craft services. But this is only for your films (the ones you direct), and by the time you reach this point you’ll have been on about 20-30 sets, getting free food and lunch everyday, so in the end it all balances out.

And a few hundred dollars is a joke compared to the thousands of dollars the film would cost if you had to pay for everything yourself, like in every other film school.

7. Why did you pick FSU? I mean, do you feel you’re receiving a better education than the programs at USC or NYU or UCLA etc would give you? Their programs start junior year, and I was just wondering what the benefit of one starting sophomore year was.

So I wrote my answer to all the above questions weeks ago because I wanted to think about this one, and it’s funny rereading it because I just had a conversation with someone on how the majority of the students at the Film School never really wanted to go here. FSU was our backup choice, the one our parents made us apply to.

This has nothing to do with the school itself. For me at least, I just wanted to get out of Florida, and as a city New York and LA are much more appealing than Tallahassee.

But the main reason I ended up here, as well as most of my classmates, is price and quality. As a Florida resident FSU is pretty much free for me. But after being here I’m glad I didn’t go any where else.

FSU prepares you to work in the film industry. We’re on set our first semester and we learn everything and do everything. We work by union rules and follow common set protocol.

I wrote about how I was on the Burn Notice set and it felt just like being back on an FSU set, just more people and a bigger production. We’re all really well prepared and not in $100k debt.

8. Is it worth it? Hollywood is kinda terrifying, especially if you look at all the numbers, and the success rate, and all that scary stuff. I know it’s not worth getting into unless you’re 100% insanely obsessed, but…it’s still kinda horrifying to think you go through all this work and education to just direct a couple of Lifetime movies by the time you’re 35. No offense to Lifetime, of course…or their directors. Does the film school prepare you for that, though? Does their Alumni program kind of save you from that fate, assuming you’re talented and hard working?

FSU does have a really big alumni network, and when you graduate they pair you with a mentor to help you out. I can’t really speak to this since I’m not officially out there yet and don’t have a mentor.

The one thing we do lack is that few big name?alumni. We don’t have a Lucas or Scorsese yet. But we also haven’t been around as long as those schools. This is our 20th anniversary, and the undergrad program has only been around for 10 or so years.

Barry Jenkins with his film Medicine for Melancholy is getting pretty big, and he only graduate a few years ago. Right now a strategy the school is pushing is to take advantage of the digital revolution.

One thing Film School provides that is hard to find anywhere else is a great network of people you know and trust. With Medicine, about 5 FSU alum stayed connected, got together and made the film.

But the film industry is crazy and brutal, whether you go to film school or not. But there’s nothing else you’d want to be doing, so you have to do it, right?

Reassurance (And Why I’ll Remain Behind the Camera)

If you survived the 2 years in Film School, you’ll do fine in Hollywood.

Said by Ali Bell, visiting alumni.

Sorry I can’t write more, I’m in the midst of a perfect storm and potential breakdown (Update: storm has passed).

But on another note, I should probably remain behind the camera:

“I’m here with my mom actually who’s up here for homecoming, we we came to the marketplace to kinda hang out. I mean it’s always fun, it’s kinda cool to see local venues and stuff.” says Joey Daoud, a FSU Film School Student

They actually recorded that on-camera, but for some reason it never aired. I guess I was too articulate for them. I did, however, warn them that I was in fact dragged to the marketplace against my wishes.

And to show how small a film world it is, I found out the person interviewing me is the girlfriend of one of the actors who’s been in many, many films.

Oh, and new Watchmen trailer:

Film School Grad in Hollywood Reporter

Ali Bell, 30

vp production and development
Montecito Picture Co.

Not everybody can trace their film career to their mother’s love of John Singleton’s “Boyz n the Hood.” “It was a combination of the acting, the cinematography and the way my mom was so rocked by the experience,” Bell says. After film school in Florida, she set her sights on directing but segued to producing after working as a marketing and creative exec at Nickelodeon Films and Heyday Films. For two years she’s been at the production company headed by Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock; Bell is responsible for projects like “Underage” and “The Occupants” for Warner Bros. — as well as bringing in the upcoming Fox Atomic comedy “The Post Grad Survival Guide.” “My job is to go out and find new writers or directors and guide them to get their movie or passion project made.”

THR Next Gen 2008: Film

Yes, that “film school in Florida” is FSU. Ali Bell graduated in the class of ’99 and she’s actually paying a visit to the Film School this Friday to talk to my soon-to-graduate class.

I also thought it was funny that the Next Gen in New Media only had four guys (though twice as many as Legal).

Geoffrey Gilmore and the Creature from the Black Lagoon


So right before I went off on documentary making adventures, Mr. Gilmore and I had a rendezvous back in Tallahassee.

First, to belay any doubts I had when I ended my last recount of our adventures, he did remember me. Joining him was Julie Le Brocquy who produced Osama, an amazing film I saw back in High School.

The Film School was hosting its annual Gala and graduate program graduation, where they screen the 4 graduate thesis films, so Geoffrey was one of the distinguished guests. We also screened Ballast, which is a story worth a separate post.

There was a lot of driving around, some cool (free) lunches and Julie was super cool and super European, which makes her even super cooler.

The highlights? They actually had nothing to do with films or screenings. Frank, the Dean, wanted Geoffrey to have a little relaxation, so we all went to Wakulla Springs – one of the largest freshwater springs in the world and the shooting location for cinema gems such as Creature from the Black Lagoon and Tarzan.


I had never been there before but it was absolutely beautiful. It was also a spoiling first time venture since we chartered a tour boat with only 8 passengers, so I was free to roam to any side to snap some cool pics.

The other highlight? Taking Geoffrey and Julie to the mall. With monopoly money being worth more than the Dollar, to Julie and her Euro, everything in America is practically half off, so she wanted to buy some gifts for her son, whom I became a size model for.

Nothing eventful happened, I just like the image that I’m walking around a clothes store at the Tallahassee Mall with the Director of the Sundance Film Festival.

The Visitor and Geoffrey Gilmore [4 of 5]

This is part four of a five part adventure that involves driving Geoffrey Gilmore (the Director of the Sundance Film Festival) around Tallahassee, Diet Cokes, private jets, The Visitor, tea, a 4 am flight, and of course, coffee. Part one and Part two, and Part three.

Friday felt a lot like Thursday. Geoffrey was going to screen the mystery film again, but this time for all the film students.

The movie was The Visitor, from Tom McCarthy, who also did The Station Agent. After The Station Agent, he got the usual studio offers to do films, but turned them down. When he decided to do The Visitor, he was adamant that the lead had to be Richard Jenkins. I thought he was a fairly known actor, mainly from watching him on Six Feet Under, but apparently not.

The original financiers  were going to fund the film as long as the lead was someone more famous than Jenkins. McCarthy was adamant that it had to be him, and he lost the investors. Eventually it was funded by one of the founders of eBay.

Like the casting in The Station Agent, Jenkins was great and perfect for the roll, and it touched on a lot of good issues (immigration, cultures, mid-life change). Afterward, questions were brought up about how to market this film. From the issues I mentioned, it covers a lot of topics and isn’t a straight ‘life changing story’ or ‘love story’ or ‘culture clash story.’

I feel like the trailer does a pretty good job of summing the film up, incorporating all the topics instead of just covering one and marketing it to different groups.

This is a crap year for independent films, and The Visitor will be one of the few indy films to get critical acclaim, be well received by audiences, and a decent box office.

Later that night, I drove Geoffrey and his entourage to the University President’s House for dinner. I went and got a Joey Bag of Donuts at Moe’s (I think I got the better deal, because the following day the Dean was sick with food poisoning).

It would have been neat to go inside the house, but apparently I didn’t miss much after it was noted that the interior design was kind of lacking ((After checking out that video I see what was meant. They have a library with no books.)).

This night there was no after party, and I was successfully able to drop Geoffrey off at his hotel for the evening.

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