5 Reasons Not To Study Documentary-Making at Film School or University

I’ve taught at most of the major film schools in London. I also run my own documentary consultancy business (www.thedocumentaryconsultant.com) and teach short courses at the NFTS and Raindance. Increasingly I’m beginning to realise what exceptional value a great short course and/or a good documentary consultant can be – and how going to a film school may not always be the best route if you want to make documentaries that get seen. See if the following convinces you (though please note that I do not include the exemplary National Film & Television School in the film schools that I’m talking about here):

1 A Recent Graduate Of A Top London Film School Told Me: “I Learned Nothing About Documentary Making On My M.A.”
I recently led a one day documentary making seminar at a top London film school on my rules & principles of documentary-making. A recent graduate was there and I asked him what he’d learned about documentary-making on his M.A. His response shocked me: “Nothing”. He then went on to tell me about his graduation film; something didn’t seem to chime with me. I asked him a few questions about it and then suggested a fix. Immediately he got excited and agreed that for the first time his film could work. I find it shocking that so many film schools fail to teach an effective, structured approach to documentary filmmaking, and also fail to help students understand how to make documentaries that an audience might want to watch (and a broadcaster might want to show).

2 Documentary Tutors Can Give Simply Terrible Advice
A student who recently attended my Raindance Documentary Foundation Certificate told me that after struggling to find a focus and a story in her film school graduation documentary the advice that her tutor had given her was to “just keep filming and you’ll find your film.” Two years later – surprise surprise – she still hadn’t found it. In my opinion that isn’t great teaching. In fact I’d argue that it’s a terrible waste of the student’s money to be given such ill-informed advice. If medicine was taught like this then there’d be hundreds of criminal cases against medical schools. In my opinion documentary structure and its concomitant principles or rules need to be taught – and taught properly.

And need I add that it’s always better to learn from someone who has excelled in their field than someone who hasn’t.

3 Many Documentary-Making Courses Are Just Glorified Film Studies Courses

Many students of mine tell me that they learned more over two or three sessions with me as a documentary consultant or teacher than they had over their entire MA or BA. Considering you’re paying in the region of £23,000 for a degree or Masters, that’s in my opinion very poor value.

Many film schools purport to teach documentary-making but in reality teach a glorified documentary studies programme. A friend of mine teaches on a filmmaking degree at a London university and recently mentioned to another tutor how he spends three days preparing his weekly lecture. The other tutor told him that they personally never bothered preparing their lectures as all they did was show a film to the students and then got them to talk about it as: “everyone’s seen so many films in their lives that they have an innate knowledge of it.” I totally disagree with this approach to teaching – by the same logic you could argue that everyone has heard so much music in their lives that all they need to do is pick up a violin and start playing. There’s a huge amount of knowledge to learn before you can go off and make an engaging documentary and much of this is counter-intuitive and so has to be taught clearly and effectively.

4 I Learned Nothing About Documentary Making Over 3 Years At My Film School

At my film school I learned a lot about feminism, cod-psychoanalysis and post-structuralism. I could even drop the words “Jacques Derrida” into an essay, however when I left film school I went straight to unemployment. It was only as I started develping my own documentary ideas that I had to go out and discover how to make documentaries that the BBC might commission. All my teachings as a documentary consultant or film tutor come out of my hard-earned, tried and tested rules that I developed through research and practical experience working as a researcher and later as a producer/director at the BBC.

5 It Might Be Better To Spend Your £23,000 Film School Fee In A Different Way

What if you do as Paul Thomas Anderson did and eschew the film school route? What if instead of studying documentary making at university you instead spent, say, £750 on a short, truly inspiring course and several great documentary consultancy sessions? This can be a far more cost-effective way to learn what you really need to know to make documentaries that audiences want to watch.

As Werner Herzog says: “All you need is $ 10,000 (and guts) to make a feature film.” So with the £22,000 you had left you could go out and make two short and two feature length documentaries.

To see how Col Spector could help you with your film and to read some testimonials from filmmakers who have used his service go to www.thedocumentaryconsultant.com

The post 5 Reasons Not To Study Documentary-Making at Film School or University appeared first on Raindance.


Official Trailer for Mickey Keating’s Horror Thriller Film ‘Psychopaths’

Psychopaths Trailer

“You look like a friendly crowd!” Samuel Goldywn Films recently debuted this official trailer for the new horror thriller titled Psychopaths, which first played at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. This is also the latest film from Mickey Keating, director of the films Ritual, Pod, Darling, and Carnage Park, which was also released this year. Psychopaths is about seven different serial killers whose paths cross over one single, blood soaked night. This looks flashy and stylish, though it’s hard to tell what exactly is going on in this trailer. The ensemble cast includes Ashley Bell, Angela Trimbur, James Landry Hebert, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Jeremy Gardner, Ivana Shein, and Larry Fessenden. If you’re into indie horror, and masks, and serial killer films, then this is for you. But if you’re not into that, well, maybe not. Have fun. ›››

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Keith Stanfield & Gregory Kasyan in First Trailer for ‘Quest’ Graffiti Film

Quest Trailer

“So what’s it about?” “Leaving a mark, getting respect.” A trailer has debuted for a new indie drama titled Quest, a story about a young kid who loves tagging and graffiti, and meets a friend who might help guide him in life. Young actor Gregory Kasyan stars as Mills, a 12 year old graffiti addict who is losing faith in integrity. His home life is mess with an abusive dad and a mom who doesn’t believe him. His school life isn’t much better. A sympathetic teacher and champion of at risk kids enters his life. Co-starring Dash Mihok, Keith Stanfield, Lou Diamond Phillips, Betsy Brandt, Sepideh Moafi, Marlyne Barrett, Allen Maldonado, and Karen Kahn. This is premiering at a few film festivals this fall, but otherwise hasn’t made much of an impact yet. Looks like it could be a cool low-key indie about the art of graffiti. Check it out. ›››

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LFF Review: Brazilian Film ‘Good Manners’ is a Clever Horror Creation

Good Manners

This Brazilian horror drama film falls under the category of WTF?!, but it’s so so so good. Good Manners, or As Boas Maneiras in Portuguese, is a film from Brazil set in São Paulo that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. If I am to sum it up in one sentence it would be: a Brazilian, lesbian, musical, werewolf drama. It’s kind of a horror film, but not really, much more of a drama with some horrific elements. Good Manners is the most clever, refreshing reinvention of the werewolf film in years. It will make you freak out and laugh and cover your eyes and throw your hands up aghast in bewilderment. The less you know about it going in, the more enjoyable the experience will be when you finally watch it unfold. So be careful with what you read. ›››

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Official UK Trailer for Cult Sci-Fi Film ‘How to Talk to Girls at Parties’

How to Talk to Girls at Parties Trailer

“Welcome to the revolution!” Studiocanal has debuted the official UK trailer for John Cameron Mitchell’s cinematic adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties, following up the Japanese trailer a few months ago. This trailer does a better job at capturing the weird, but heartfelt vibe of this film. HtTtGaP is totally wacky cult sci-fi film that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this summer to mixed reviews (I wasn’t a big fan of it). The film stars Tony-winner Alex Sharp as Enn, a boy from the dreary London suburb of Croydon. Set in the late 70s, it’s a punk rock-infused, horny-adventure about a group of punk kids who discover a secret convent of aliens visiting planet Earth. The cast includes Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson, Matt Lucas, and Tom Brooke. Have a look, this just might be your jam. ›››

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New Wave Crash Course: Agnès Varda’s Personal Film School

“We can discover so much just from the mise-en-scène created by life itself.”

The 55th New York Film Festival was graced with the presence of legendary 88-year old Belgian-born filmmaker Agnès Varda and her new film Faces Places. A pioneer of the French New Wave—aka La Nouvelle Vague, arguably one of the most influential cinematic revolutions in history—Varda has her own brand of film school to share. She’s a contemporary of Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and other French New Wave barrier-breakers. She’s the widow of filmmaker Jacques Demy (Umbrellas of Cherbourg, 1964). And, most importantly, she’s a force in her own right: a mischievous mix of intellect, wit and no-nonsense advice.

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No Film School

Up Next – Sitges Film Festival in Spain & London Film Festival in UK

Sitges Film Festival

The fall film festival season rages on…! Up next are two more film festivals in Europe. I’m stopping by the Sitges Film Festival in Spain, a prestigious genre/horror festival celebrating its 50th year. And then I’m heading up to London to catch the second half of the London Film Festival, celebrating its 64th year. Both festivals kick off this week and continue through next week for a total of 10 days (I love that festivals continue to run for 10 days, it’s always invigorating to stay and watch films for that long). This is my first time attending both festivals, which makes me anxious but it’s also exciting. Attending a film festival for the first time is always daunting, but once I figure everything out and settle in for screenings, all is well again. ›››

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Looking to Self-Distribute Your Film? Sundance Wants to Lend a Hand

Sundance opens its Creative Distribution Fellowship to films beyond those that have played at the festival and reveals data on past releases.

Two of the films that we really enjoyed at Sundance 2017— Jennifer Brea’s Unrest and Koganada’s Columbus—are both now out in the world, garnering critical praise and, most importantly, audiences. This result is not a given for niche debut features by relatively unknown directors, but in both cases it was facilitated in part by the films’ selections for the inaugural round of the Sundance Creative Distribution Fellowship.

Initiated last year, the fellowship builds on the successes of Sundance’s formerly named Artist Services wing, which helped usher more than 200 independent films into the market. Now, the fellowship formalizes all of that experience into a whole package that gives unprecedented control to the filmmakers involved.

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No Film School

Rutger Hauer in First Full Trailer for Weird Sci-Fi Film ‘The Broken Key’

The Broken Key Trailer

“Is man ready to re-constitute it?” What the heck is this? A full trailer has debuted for a film titled The Broken Key, some sort of weird sci-fi mashup involving historical artifacts and modern technology and all kinds of wacky things. It’s set in the near future, at a time when paper has become a rare item, “a luxury possession”, and printing is now a crime. The main character is a British scholar of ancient Italian origins, who gets caught up in a series of murders taking him “on the path traced, so many centuries before, by Dante Alighieri and by the painter Hieronymus Bosch.” This stars Rutger Hauer, Michael Madsen, Christopher Lambert, Geraldine Chaplin, Franco Nero, William Baldwin, Maria de Medeiros, Kabir Bedi, and Marc Fiorini. This really looks way too weird for my tastes, another film straight from the 90s destined to find its way into VHS bargain bins. How these films are still getting made is beyond me. ›››

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US Trailer for Acclaimed Italian Film ‘A Ciambra’ Produced by Scorsese

A Ciambra Trailer

“You’re almost a man Pio.” IFC + Sundance Selects has debuted the official US trailer for A Ciambra, a film that played to great reviews in the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival this year. The story follows a 14-year-old boy named Pio growing up in a Romani community in Southern Italy. Martin Scorsese loved the film so much, he joined as an executive producer and is presenting it in the US. The trailer starts out with a nice Scorsese quote about how the world in the film is so fully realized he felt like he was “living alongside its characters.” Starring Pio Amato as Pio, plus Koudous Seihon & Damiano Amato. If you haven’t already heard about this film, now is the time, and you’ll probably hear more about this as it gets closer to the release. It won’t open in the US until early 2018, but catch the trailer below for your first look. ›››

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