Thanks to Netflix instant play, hours of my life are spent organizing an endless queue of movies, browsing films I’ve never heard of, and then watching all of them. Not only do I not feel guilty about this, I actually feel accomplished. That’s one of the privileges of calling yourself a filmmaker and storyteller. It’s a hard job, but someone’s (or thousands of someones) gotta do it.
Maybe less productive, but equally as inspiring, is watching other filmmakers make their own films. Even better, struggling young filmmakers who are just as terrified as you making their own films. That’s what I found in the IFC documentary series Film School which follows four NYU Masters students as they try to complete a short film that could be the stepping stone of their careers. As someone who has been on the wonderful roller coaster of making a film, I found this series comforting and reviving. My only disappointment is that it ended after 10 episodes.
If you’re a New York filmmaker who didn’t go to NYU, you probably have a strong opinion about the program. This is most likely because you’re bitter, angry, jealous, or all of the aforementioned. The assumption is that if you’re attending NYU, you’re either dirty rich or have someone paying your way. Add to that the amount of resources at their fingertips, and jealousy is bound to fly. As for myself, I wasn’t accepted – fine, I was rejected from – the NYU undegrad program as a transfer student, I didn’t have top of the line resources available to me, and I’ve had to struggle with money for years. So yea, I’ve scoffed at the sound of NYU a time or two. Imagine my surprise when I suddenly found myself feeling for my film school foes.
International student Vincenzo is almost kicked out of the masters program when he can’t afford the remaining $15,000 owed in tuition, not to mention the 10+ grand it will take to complete his film. San Francisco native Leah dives head first into a deeply personal project that comes with its own set of hardships including difficulty working with outside crew. Alrick takes on the challenge of real life events in his film while trying to balance a long distance relationship, a feat that proves impossible. Barbara desperately wants to share her story but doesn’t seem to know where or how to begin and when her grandmother passes away, she drops out of the program. All four of these students debunk the notion that NYU grads are a bunch of rich too-smart-for-their-own-good brats. Now, their budgets are still beyond anything I would even consider when I was in school, their ideas of broke seem to be different than mine, and some of their bumps in the road are miraculously paved. Nevertheless, that all too familiar drop in your stomach and pang in your heart when you fear you may have throw in the towel is hard to scoff at.
If you’re not a filmmaker yourself, you may questioning who the hell would want to put themselves through such financial, physical, and mental stress. As a film student chances are you’ve written, directed, produced, and financed your own work. Hours, weeks, and months of your life are dedicated to telling this one little story. You go broke, you go hungry, you lose friends, you question yourself, you’re ready to rip your hair out and all the while you’re loving every. single. second of it. Because if you pull this off, you’ve managed to tell a story that previously only lived in your head. And to do that, you have overcome countless obstacles and proven yourself time after time after time. This incredible feeling is made palpable in the last few episodes of Film School as the three students call wrap and go on to screen the final products. I haven’t been on one of my own sets for the past year, but I could feel exactly what they were feeling. I need that feeling again.
This is where the reviving part comes in. Watching these students go through the ups and downs of filmmaking reminded me how much I love what I do. I’m still very much on the path to my dreams, but I have the horrible habit of staying practical. Ah yes, practicality, aka: Killer of Dreams. I can only fight my nature so much so I will always have that practical voice yelling in my head. I’ll just have to start utilizing the muzzle every now and then. It will be nerve-racking, sure, but the payoffs will be that much greater.
So, I guess, aside from the fancy equipment and strict curriculum, I received an education from NYU after all. Maybe that’s why I’m $80,000 in debt…
Here’s to goin’ for broke.
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