Take a Trip, Make a Film: A Look at Study-Abroad Programs
Need a change of scenery? Here are five programs that allow filmmakers to study abroad.January 21st, 2008 | Lynn Tryba
When it comes to taking filmmaking classes abroad, the question is not so much “Why?” as it is, “Why not?” As anyone with a passion knows, procrastination and perfectionism are barriers to creativity, and they can become all the more pernicious when you're stuck in an unchanging daily routine. You tell yourself that some day soon you’ll get around to starting — or finishing — that project that’s close to your heart. Then you run out to pick up the dry cleaning, and the creative impulse is lost.
Maybe you want to get away from home to focus on finishing a project that you've been working on for awhile. Or maybe you just want to brush up on some basic skills in a relaxing, inspiring setting. The chance to immerse yourself in your work in another culture may be just the springboard you need to embark on a more creative and productive future. At the very least, you’ll see a little more of the world. Here's a look at five short-term programs that offer filmmakers the chance to study abroad.
School/organization: The New York Film Academy
Where: Paris, London, and Florence
What's offered: One- and four-week programs
When: Between June and August
Cost: $1,500 to $3,500, plus fees
What to expect: “If you give me three days, I can show you the ABCs of film.” So said Orson Welles, at least according to the New York Film Academy's website. Building on this philosophy, the Academy's study-abroad programs promise to have students of all levels putting together new films all in a week's time. But though the programs are billed as having an intense, learn-by-doing approach, the school also promises that participants will have ample opportunity to explore its European host cities. Among other bits of continental ambiance, NYFA claims to have “an excellent café au lait machine” at the French National Film School (called La Fémis), where its students take classes.
For more information: Visit Nyfa.edu.
School/organization: PCFE Film School
What's offered: Four-week workshops
When: Classes are scheduled for June 8-July 5; July 6-August 2; August 3-30
Cost: 2,460 Euros (approximately $3,600 per workshop); covers program and equipment costs
What to expect: By the end of a four-week session, you will have written, directed, shot, and edited your own short film. And you will have done it in the heart of historic Prague, with a recently-restored 11th-century building serving as the program's headquarters. Despite the ancient environs, students work with cutting-edge equipment provided by the PCFE Film School.
During the first two weeks of their visit, students can expect soup-to-nuts instruction that covers the basics of filmmaking, from screenwriting to editing with Avid. Seminars cover subjects such as working with actors, using a storyboard, and breaking down a scene. You’ll learn the principles of continuity, shot sequencing, and the technical aspects of cinematography. Sound and lighting workshops round out the first phase of the program. The final two weeks of the program are devoted to film production and post-production. Each workshop is open to only 24 students.
For more information: Visit Filmstudies.cz.
School/organization: New York University Tisch School of the Arts Asia
What's offered: Weekend, weeklong, and six-week programs
When: Courses run frequently from May through August.
Cost: Fees range from $1,885 to $4,950
What to expect: All classes are taught by faculty members and alumni from the Tisch School of the Arts in New York City, and they are color-coded by level on the school's website.
Expect to work hard and achieve results. After attending the intensive two-day program called "Producing for Film and Television," for example, you should be able to break down, schedule, and budget a feature film. After the six-week "Writing for the Screen" program, you will have completed a film treatment and step outline for a feature film or TV episode. Meanwhile, those enrolled in the weeklong Color Synch class for intermediates collaborate in small crews to produce four-color, sync-sound 16mm short films that address craft, aesthetic, and production issues. Each student rotates roles as director, producer, camera, sound, and AC/gaffer.
Keep in mind that if you complete a certain amount of classes in a certain period of time, you can receive a professional filmmaking certification from the Tisch School of the Arts.
For more information: Visit the Tisch Asia website.
School/organization: Southseas Film & Television School New Zealand
Where: Auckland, New Zealand
What's offered: A five-day animation production course
When: July, September, and December
Cost: NZ $225 (roughly $170 U.S. dollars)
What to expect: Though the plane ticket to New Zealand could set up back some, you can’t beat the price of this five-day workshop. Intended as an introduction to 2D classical animation, the short-term course immerses would-be animators in fundamentals such as basic drawing,
layout, and storyboarding. Students will also be taught flash animation. True to the school’s aim of providing hands-on experience, participants are required to complete a practical project each day, that builds on the skills they learn in class. The course, limited to 18 students at a time, uses the facilities and equipment of the South Seas Animation School, which boasts a 30,000-square-foot production complex designed to approximate the atmosphere found at actual animation shops.
For more information: Visit Southseas.co.nz.
School/organization: Canadian Screen Training Centre
Where: Heritage College, Gatineau Park, Ottawa
What's offered: The Centre's 28th annual Summer Institute of Film & Television, often called SIFT; the program that consists of numerous two-, three-, and five-day workshops
When: May 27 to June 1
Cost: Fees range from $350 to $645
What to expect:This program is probably easier for most American filmmakers to get to and relatively cheap, appealing to more timid or frugal travelers. But that doesn't mean the program itself is modest. Instead, SIFT offers filmmakers an array of workshops, presentations, screenings, panel discussions and social events. The workshops are geared to writers, directors, actors, new media creators and production people. Past SIFT instructors include famous directors such as Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley), Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park), and Sturla Gunnarsson (Beowulf & Grendel.)
For more information: Visit Cstc.ca.