I completed my final semester of film school! I’ve lived abroad for a year! Everything is happening!
Throughout the school year, at the end of every semester I’ve dedicated a post to review and discuss what I thought of the film program during that time to help both myself decide how to move forward and for potential students to decide if dBS film is the right fit for them. The final semester curriculum entirely revolved around our final projects and preparing for them. Our classes were designed to teach us new, and more advanced equipment and to keep us on track with preproduction deadlines. Originally, I was crewed to work on four different films for the final semester, but I had gotten ill during the first week of filming and unfortunately had to bow out of one film. In the end, I worked on three different final projects. I Produced two films, and did Continuity/1st A.D on another.
Before being given the green light to go ahead and create the story you’ve written a script for, your story had to be selected during the pitching competition. Our first week back to class in the last semester was entirely dedicated to this pitching competition; we had five days worth of pitches and rotating judges who would critique our work. The way it went down is if you wanted to pitch a project, you had to be there on the first day of Pitching Week, grab a number at the door and then wait your turn for when you can present your pitch. You would present your pitch in front of the whole class (terrifying), and also in front of a panel of judges that was made up of both our tutors and industry professionals. Once you had completed your pitch, the judges would give you a round of immediate feedback. In the evening, all the students would receive an email with a list of names of people who had been approved, and who still needed to work on their pitch. If your pitch was one of the ones that needed some extra love and care, you were invited back to pitch the following days to try and receive the green light status for your film. By Friday, a complete list of ten films had received the green light status and had been approved to make their films. If your film hadn’t achieved the green light status, you would still be allowed to create your film during the final semester, but you wouldn’t receive priority with scheduling or renting gear. Otherwise, it was time for the approved films to start working on preproduction!
The curriculum allowed for lots of pre-production time and as I was producing on two separate films, I definitely needed the extra time. For the films we’ve created at dBs Film, there’s a checklist of pre-production documents that you need to have in order to get approved for your gear rental. The kind of documents we were expected to provide were things like a schedule, shot list, story board, flat lays, risk assessments etc. I had two films worth of documents and planning to do at the same time, so it was equal parts hell and heaven on earth for like three weeks because I had so much to do, but I’m a complete nut job and love organizing everything. Beyond the documents, we also used this time to scout and secure locations, sort out wardrobe and props and do all of our auditions and castings! It was a lot of paperwork, a lot of meetings and a lot of sleepless nights for a few weeks before we started shooting.
While the majority of our time in the last semester was dedicated to giving us the free time to create our films and get everything accomplished within the parameters of our deadlines, we did also have regular classes. I think my biggest gripe with the curriculum for our final semester was that it wasn’t enough time to properly teach us what we were going over in class. These classes revolved around getting us introduced to new equipment that we hadn’t had access to previously in the school year and as a filmmaker, getting to use and play with new gear is always a highlight. With most of our classes in the end of the school year, it would be like a crash course in whatever we were learning that day, and then by the next class we would have moved onto something else. Generally speaking, a single three or four hour class is not enough time for someone to become competent in using new film equipment; you’re not getting adequate practice in that timeframe. Ideally, I think that we should have been practicing and using the new gear weeks ahead of when we were supposed to start filming our final projects, not a couple of days beforehand. As these were our final projects, everyone wanted to make their work the best that they possibly could have. But, if you’re not knowledgeable in what you’re using to create your films with, it’s obviously going to cause some problems on set and potentially effect the quality of work you produce. If you watched our final films, you wouldn’t assume there was any self-doubt or unfamiliarity in the gear we were using because they all came out really fucking good, but I think it was a common notion amongst most of the students that having this new gear thrusted on us a few days before our shoots began wasn’t ideal.
At this point in the semester, we had finished our classes for the time being, we had handed in all of our pre-production work and we were about to start shooting. The shooting schedule was broken up into one week time slots, with two to three films being created each week. For the majority of the school year, we had been shooting and editing in much shorter time frames, so having a full week dedicated just to shooting was plenty of time. Each crew booked out gear on a first come, first serve basis, but we generally would try to align our shooting schedules so that we could share the gear amongst the different crews. During the shooting weeks, the tutors would make surprise visits on set to see how we were making out and if we were working according to the schedule. Personally, I always enjoyed having the tutors on set because it was helpful having someone on set that we knew we could ask a question that would have the answer if we ran into any problems. After the month of shooting for our final projects, both the approved and non-approved projects had wrapped on their films and we moved onto editing! It wasn’t long before we finished editing our final projects, our final classes and shared our final screening as a class.
The final semester of film school was pretty busy, and I think everyone felt some stress at some point during the whole process of creating our final films. Generally, we were allotted enough time to create our films and do a good job at bringing our stories to life. The biggest problem I had with the layout was being introduced to new gear so late in the game. I really don’t think that it was the best planning on behalf of the school to bring all this new and exciting equipment just days before we started shooting.
That being said, I think our final semester was great for a lot of reasons. Each and every group had a lot of obstacles to move through for whatever reason, and at this point in the game we were very much on our own and had to figure out solutions for those issues. While the tutors were always happy and willing to offer suggestions, sometimes their suggestions didn’t offer the right answer and we would have to go back to the drawing board, time and time again. This independence really pushed us as filmmakers and forced us to be savvy with our time, money and connections.