7 No Bull-Sh*t Filmmaking Lessons They Don’t Teach You in $200,000 Film Schools
By: Chris Hoshnic
I didn't properly go to film school. Shit, most people my age think I never got an education. (Mind you, I finished an associates in Video Production.)
My first piece of advice:
DON'T WASTE MONEY ON FILM SCHOOL.
I spent a large portion of my early twenties wishing and wanting to go to New York University and University of Southern California. I thought those schools were my lord and savior. I was dead-ass wrong. I'm glad I didn't go, I'd rather be in debt for financing a feature film then a piece of paper that says I was a good boy in school.
Anyway, I thought I'd go over some things I learned from reading a lot of books, watching a ton of videos, attending conferences, work shops and film festivals. I'm from a very selective bunch so don't take my wo-actually, no, take my words and use them. Save yourself money and time. Like Dov Simen says, just give me a thank you credit in your feature film.
1. The film industry is a business first.
I would advise for any fresh-out-of-high-school kid to take classes in business. Get a job and work your way up to management and film stuff on the weekends. Learn everything else first and make "filmmaking" a hobby. You're learning when you think you're not going anywhere.
2. Story is everything.
Reading isn't enough. Break everything down. Books, scripts, advertisements, marketing campaigns, photography, that brand new towel set your mom bought you, T-Mobile's sale pitch, Jennifer Lawrence's fall at the Oscars. Everything has a story. Stories make people relate and if they can relate, they will like it. Go find books on storytelling, how to tell a story and then buy other books in other aspects of life (financing, business, medical, etc.) EVERYTHING HAS THE STRUCTURE OF STORYTELLING.
A couple great places to start:
3. Know your voice. Be authentic.
If you don't know who you are, and I don't mean hobbling into the woods and hike some stupid mountain. YOU'RE NOT OUT THERE SO STOP LOOKING. Your voice is what distinguishes you from everyone else. If you write like George Lucas or Woody Allen, no one will hire you. Have opinions, even if they're really bad, like Hitler bad. Read your favorite books and watch your favorite films. Everything, like story, relates. This is your voice.
4. Watch movies, read scripts and never stop learning.
The buck doesn't stop at USC's graduation ceremony. Keep learning. Every award season, print the best and worst screenplays of that year and analyze. Research everything. If you don't understand something, find someone who does and trade secrets. Mandi is purely business and I'm an asshole so everything works out for us.
It's all so scary going into film land but really, it's like that in any industry. No one business is more complicated than another. The best thing I've ever done is to keep my mouth shut and listen to anyone and everyone... Then bitch about it on the way home with your business partners.
5. Think small business, not filmmaking.
This took A LONG TIME for me to understand. It isn't until you miss a car payment and when no one will hire you that everything starts to dwindle down; filmmaking isn't just some Rugrats adventure. THIS IS A BUSINESS. This is where your other life experiences will come in. That grocery bagging job you started in 2013 and now you're Assistant Manager, hello!! You're a bonafide producer. You can schedule, budget, inventory, hire, train, fire, etc. You can do what Kathleen Kennedy does. Wait, did you say you work at a call center for Discover card? HI, MY NAME IS CHRIS AND I'M LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO PITCH MY SCREENERS TO FESTIVAL PROGRAMMERS. Get your head out of the clouds and dig deeper.
6. Development is going to cost you less than Post-Production.
Our script, we've been working on for close to five years now. Mandi has almost killed me 20 times since our first version. We've gone through 30-50 versions of our screenplay. Disney excels in this. Spend more time and money on ink, paper and paperclips. It's cheaper than reshooting, rehiring, extending the editor's contract and asking the investors for more money. Would you rather spend $200 or $200,000? Think about that. Time isn't your enemy, money is.
Try this on for size:
7. It's not the money, it's the money.
Everything is money. The world goes 'round because of it. Don't think that your little Star Wars short film-rip off is gonna hit it big at the Pollack Theater in Tempe and some juggernaut exec is gonna see it. NO. They've got other things to worry about. They're doing everything they can to save a buck and so should you. Talk money, think money and be money.
To get started to understanding:
Just a few things I've learned over the last couple years. It's scary and exciting but nothing has ever felt more right.
So I'd like to take this opportunity to let you know of a project we've been working on for quite some time now. We've been in "development" for about 5 years and this year, we'd love to have the support and knowledge of those around us. Especially from those with great credit scores.
Our goal is to complete a few drafts and send the script to festivals and competitions where we can hopefully get professional feedback and/or win a couple grants. We plan to shoot late fall/early next year but we will continue to pursue freelance photography on the side. With the profits, we plan to save and use towards Sydney, Arizona. We hope to start work shops and possibly have future table reads for our screenplay as well as collaborate with other small business owners through our blogs and/or photography.
We've learned through the business of photography what we are about to embark. The love for photography still remains and we greatly appreciate the bridge it has created into filmmaking.
Thank you so much for your support. Mandi and I are greatly appreciative, even though we don't act like it. We respect and love each and every person who has come our way and we hope this new venture will bring more exciting things. Please, let us know how we're doing, if there's anyone who's in need of our services, anyone who could help or needs help-we would greatly appreciate it. We will continue to keep an update on the project and hopefully see a public table reading here very soon.
Here's to a great year and to our project, Sydney, Arizona!