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Help someone who's crazy about films! (Life Path, College, Directing)

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    I am a 19, almost 20 year old Californian currently attending community college. I’ve come to the conclusion that I definitely want to get involved in film/tv/theatre. I’m not positive whether I’d prefer acting or directing, but I know I want to have a significant part in creating films, hopefully ending up in a place where I can work with international material. A lot of my favorite films/actors are British, or otherwise involve a mix of talent from various countries, and I can see how directing could more easily allow me to venture away from strictly American material. Anyway, my question is this: What should I do at this point in my life, as someone with no experience whatsoever, to begin a path to making films and/or directing stage? Transfer to an American University and do a general Drama major, try and get into a British conservatory for directing or acting? Is this possible with no experience? Are there other options? Examples of people who are doing or have done what I want to do are Joe Wright, Sam Mendes, Saoirse Ronan, James McAvoy, Fernando Meirelles, Eddie Redmayne, etc..

    Thank you so much, any input would be a godsend!
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    Why don't you try making your own film right now? Using friends as actors, many filmmakers have come down the route of creating low-budget films (Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino). Once completed you could try sending it to a film festival to get attention and maybe even find a distributor. There is nothing to lose even if you make a bad one, you can just learn from your mistakes.
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    If you're in Cali, you seriously have some of the best film schools on the planet at your doorstep. I'd seriously recommend getting a film degree at one of them--the stuff you shoot will be basically top quality and be amazing for your showreel (which will be what helps get you jobs). Also, the contacts you make through uni will be invaluable. I would not recommend going to film school in the UK--the UK has a much bigger TV industry, and while you may find the style/humour of Brit productions more your style, the quality of your education will be better in the states. That being said, producing your own work, shortfilms, music videos, whatever, may help you get into school. You can always produce whatever you want once you get going, but def get your education in Cali if you can. I wouldn't bother with a drama degree unless you're really into theater.

    And I mean, no, a BA in film isn't necessary to work in film, I have six years of pro experience with no degree, though I am starting a film studies degree this year because I want to do a masters in producing when I finish. But, it's a good start, especially if you're already in the prime location for it.
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    Also-- like I said, what will help you be able to get jobs or be in a position to make your own work will be your showreel, the quality of it, your style of work, etc. In order to direct/produce your own projects, you have to convince someone (or many someones) to financially back you and your project of choice. This requires strong technical/artistic skills as well as the ability to clearly/professional express yourself and your intentions, that's why a formal university study will be helpful kinda all around.
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    (Original post by gainsford111)
    I am a 19, almost 20 year old Californian currently attending community college. I’ve come to the conclusion that I definitely want to get involved in film/tv/theatre. I’m not positive whether I’d prefer acting or directing, but I know I want to have a significant part in creating films, hopefully ending up in a place where I can work with international material. A lot of my favorite films/actors are British, or otherwise involve a mix of talent from various countries, and I can see how directing could more easily allow me to venture away from strictly American material. Anyway, my question is this: What should I do at this point in my life, as someone with no experience whatsoever, to begin a path to making films and/or directing stage? Transfer to an American University and do a general Drama major, try and get into a British conservatory for directing or acting? Is this possible with no experience? Are there other options? Examples of people who are doing or have done what I want to do are Joe Wright, Sam Mendes, Saoirse Ronan, James McAvoy, Fernando Meirelles, Eddie Redmayne, etc..

    Thank you so much, any input would be a godsend!
    Read the autobiographies of people who have made it. Peter Jackson's book is very good I'm told. Geoff Thompson is a BAFTA winning writer and his best advice is if you want to be a great writer, you need to write. If you want to be a great film director, you need to film. Immerse yourself fully in what you want to do. If you want to be world class, you can't expect to train 2-3 times a week, you need to be training 2-3 times per day.

    If you go to his website, you can read his articles for free which are really inspirational:

    http://www.geoffthompson.com

    You can also watch the short films he has created, including the one he won a BAFTA for. It's his ambition to win an Oscar one day and I believe he will do it.
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    I really appreciate your guys' responses! I have a couple of questions.

    1. What film schools are you thinking of sarahoo? Would UCLA Film/Television be one?

    2. One of the things that's tripping me up is I'm not sure whether I would rather be an actor or director, or which would be "smarter" for me etc. I suppose getting into a situation where I had the opportunity to act and learn about directing would be good, but again it's difficult when you're thinking in terms of specific pathways.
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    (Original post by gainsford111)
    I really appreciate your guys' responses! I have a couple of questions.

    1. What film schools are you thinking of sarahoo? Would UCLA Film/Television be one?

    2. One of the things that's tripping me up is I'm not sure whether I would rather be an actor or director, or which would be "smarter" for me etc. I suppose getting into a situation where I had the opportunity to act and learn about directing would be good, but again it's difficult when you're thinking in terms of specific pathways.
    Why limit yourself to one? Clint Eastwood did Directing after Acting. Quentin Tarantino starred in some of his own films.
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    USC, UCLA, there are SOOO many amazing schools in Cali for film with the most amazing industry connections. You would seriously have the time of your life--it is literally a dream, and tons of money is donated to those programs to make sure the students that graduate from them are the best of the best. Check this list in the hollywood reporter, which, btw, is an awesome industry mag to read.
    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/new...ankings-215714

    Honestly, you will probably be given the opportunity to act in film school as well as direct, but I personally would take the chance to study film before studying acting. That's definitely a personal choice, but the opportunities produced by going to film school allow you to do things such as star in your own films or films of people you've met through film school. I know it's silly, but Matthew Gray Gubler of Criminal Minds did his uni internship w/ Wes Anderson and then Anderson made him audition for a part in life acquatic. After starring in that, he got picked up for a role on Criminal Minds, which has b een going on for, what, 7 seasons?? And he gets to direct episodes for the show, as well.

    Anyway, it's all anecdotal, your life is what you make of it with the opportunities you're given, especially in a field like film.
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    I guess it's just hard for me to know what path is going to be most fruitful, I know I tend to dislike mainstream American Films/TV, a lot of my favorite projects are international and I'd love to live in London...so that option makes a lot of sense. At the same time, I'm not opposed to American projects and I'm not sure how easy it is for an American to work on foreign projects etc. . My tendency is to think Cinema really has no borders and the most important thing is exposing myself to the art and learning. I'm probably over thinking things, I just want to make sure I've thought things out before I make any decisions....and I want to train somewhere that's going to give me as much of an advantage as possible.
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    Sorry to butt in but I've had similar thoughts to this although I'm currently studying psychology at University which I love. Does anyone know of any careers which incorporate the two (both film and psychology)?
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    (Original post by Battenberg)
    Sorry to butt in but I've had similar thoughts to this although I'm currently studying psychology at University which I love. Does anyone know of any careers which incorporate the two (both film and psychology)?
    It depends on what you would want to do in film. Psychology, on the most basic level, helps you understand human thought/motivation/personality, whatever, which is huge when screenwriting. That being said, like I said earlier, you can always start a career in film just by getting out there and writing/shooting your own work, by starting as a runner on set, and just learning as much as you can. Ultimately, you need to know what you want to do to really do anything :]
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    (Original post by gainsford111)
    I guess it's just hard for me to know what path is going to be most fruitful, I know I tend to dislike mainstream American Films/TV, a lot of my favorite projects are international and I'd love to live in London...so that option makes a lot of sense. At the same time, I'm not opposed to American projects and I'm not sure how easy it is for an American to work on foreign projects etc. . My tendency is to think Cinema really has no borders and the most important thing is exposing myself to the art and learning. I'm probably over thinking things, I just want to make sure I've thought things out before I make any decisions....and I want to train somewhere that's going to give me as much of an advantage as possible.
    Well, I'm just telling you from a practical perspective. I don't think many people actually interested in film think American TV/Film is the height of awesomeness or whatever, but respect it for being a fabulous commercial/entertainment enterprise. That being said, you will still get THE BEST education in the states when it comes to film. You're not taught content, you create content on your own.

    London is a great city to live in, but it's much more a TV city than a film city. The UK film industry is not massive, their TV industry is, in comparison. It is, however, not very much like the states, and the majority of the TV produced here is whodunit style detective series, sitcoms, soap operas, and reality tv.

    Studying in Cali will afford you the most/best connections, top of the industry training, as well as giving you the opportunity to live in a place where 1/3 the state is someone wanting something to do with film/willing to work for peanuts. Not saying London isn't filled with talented people, but where in the world besides California would be the first choice in anyone's mind as film capital of the world?

    Personally, I am studying in London because I'm married and live here. I'm excited for the academic study of the french new wave, italian neorealism, german cinema, etc etc etc, but I understand that studying film production here would inevitably be on a lower level than I've actually worked on previously, so focusing on that would not be worth the effort. If I were rich and could do whatever, I'd, of course, study in California.

    That being said, after I get my BA, we will be moving to NYC or CA so I can get a MFA or MBA/MFA (depending on the program) in Film Producing (preferably from Columbia, but NYU and USC tied for second).

    Basically, if you're supremely serious about a career, you'll need to think practically. If you just want a few years abroad, study here, but understand, the UK is not hte place to study film. The top film program in the country is at Kings College London, and it's a purely academic/theoretical study, where you will never touch a camera as a part of the program. The unis that offer film production classes are less prestigious/well-known, and no one in the US will know what they are. That being said, obvs a film degree doesn't really help you get a job anyway, unless you're going into masters or w/e and plan on doing more of the business side. Well, or screenwriting, in which case, you'd also probably want to study in the states where dedicated screenwriting programs exist.
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    Really the only directing program I've seen so far in London that looks great is the Drama Centre BA. I definitely like the fact that it seems more practical than UCLA's Film/TV major, as well as the idea that you get to work with actors a lot and even collaborate with costume designers etc... The only way it'd really make sense for me to study in England is if out of school I was able to get a job directing a BBC project or else something similar and secure rights to keep living there. I have no idea how likely this is, I mean I know Central St. Martins does a lot of work placements so with great determination it might be worth a shot. I really wish I didn't dislike Los Angeles so much... and like British culture so much.

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Updated: February 28, 2012
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