Short (1 month) film school in DC?
July 31, 2007 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Increasingly, marketing is about telling stories. In my downtime (next 1 to 2 months), I'd like to take a course on film making in the DC area. Any suggestions as to where I can do this? Any other suggestions or comments on ways to increase my storytelling capabilities?

I'm going to have some downtime in the next few months between jobs. In this period, I'd like to take a 1 month digitial video class. Ideally, I'd spend some time learning how to write screenplays, through to digital production and post production.

The idea isn't to become a new filmmaker. I believe that more and more, it's about storytelling. And, video as a means to do that. In my field (marketing), I'd like to get more exposure to how to do this.

Also, I have thought about creative writing classes, etc. I would like to do something intensive (1 month), 8 hours a day, and be done with it.

Any suggestions?
posted by wflanagan to Education (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Robert McKee Story seminar is much parodied (he appears in the film Adaptation) and the method he teaches is fairly rigid, but he does have a passion for narrative that few others match and he is often cited in fields outside of film (like politics and messaging). Generally just two-day seminars though, and not a lot of personal feedback.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 12:52 PM on July 31, 2007

You're talking about what I perceive as two different things:

First: You want to acquire enough education/experience to be able to make videos (I can't stomach to call it film unless you use celluloid. Blame it on film school snobbery from me.)

Second: You want to do it quick.

Additionally, since we're talking about 'marketing' - I'll also humbly suggest you're talking corporate (as in documentary style/storytelling/propaganda) or commercial (as in 30 second short spots.)

Guerilla style (zero cost)
Robert Rodriguez has a book called "Rebel Without a Crew." Read this. Watch his 10 min film school on the end of El Mariachi, Desperado, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Last read The DV Rebel's Guide by Stu Maschwitz.

Both will say, basically: Go out, make mistakes, learn from them. Spend your money on making movies and making mistakes. (these are a bit heavy into 90+ min fiction storytelling)

School Style:

Really the Maine Workshops and the NY Film Academy both offer intense short term programs.

These will say: Come learn skills and tell your stories.
Yes, they will likely go over structure (of storytelling) and graft skills onto you. But if you break down the process into writing/preproduction/production/post - that gives you a week per phase to learn and utilize the things you learn.

And yeah, there's the full bit where you go to film school.


I do have a question for you wflanagan: How long could you teach what you know about marketing to make someone competent? A month? Of 8 hour days? Figure this field is just as specialized and full of competent people as marketing (and yes, I laugh at that on both sides - I know totally incompetent people in film and marketing.)

Either/both of the ideas of being self taught or going to month long programs will help; I'd probably say, just pick up a guerilla weekend workshop on filmmaking (realizing that you'll be weak at it, but at least have learned something) and spend your month honing your storytelling skills (because you recognize it's about storytelling.) You can always hire people to shoot/edit/do post.
posted by filmgeek at 1:01 PM on July 31, 2007

"marketing is about telling intriguing stories"

that's the crucial part. all you need is one compelling thought. something interesting to hook people with.
posted by krautland at 1:49 PM on July 31, 2007

Yeah, as Krautland said, intriguing stories....

While I'm very interested in it from a professional development standpoint, I'm also interested in it from a pure "artistic" standpoint as well. I'm also a musician, and I think that having an idea of what the "best practices" are will help move me along on my path to becoming a reasonable filmmaker.

I'm really just interested in a crash course in learning the basics... from there, I can take it, make mistakes, and go on my own.

Are there any other suggestions on building better storytelling capabilities?
posted by wflanagan at 1:55 PM on July 31, 2007

I would look into taking a series of day long workshops to learn some basic skills: Check out Creative Alliance in Baltmore, The Writers Center in Bethesda or any of the public access stations who all offer workshops and classes. Or you could just get on a team and do the 48hr film project.... good luck
posted by mcbietila at 3:00 PM on July 31, 2007

I've always loved stories anyway, but Damascas Nights by Rafik Schami made me fall in love with storytelling all over again. You must buy it and read it. It's unspeakably wonderful. It won't necessarily teach you how to tell stories itself, but it will serve two important functions: first, it will be incredibly inspiring. Each time I read it I want to quit everything I'm doing and become a storyteller; secondly, in the book everyone tells a story I'm not giving too much away by that) so in a sense it reassures you that everyone has the ability to find the story lurking inside of themselves.

As far as techniques: learn to love, nourish, and cultivate stories. An easy way to start is jokes, which are really just short, easy to remember stories with big immediate payoffs. Move to longer jokes and when you do so, really try to lengthen a joke out, tease its layers, find areas where you can be more lyrical, funnier, more descriptive. If you've lived an interesting life you can tell stories about yourself, otherwise you can try to learn stories from other people or, as a last resort, get them from books.

You should check out the fairly gripping video of Ira Glass talking about storytelling. This American Life also has an excellent comic book that most people don't know about. It's radio focused but talks about how a story is developed. It also has some pretty fascinating glimpses into some of the tricks you have to do in radio -- things like inserting blank sound or beats to make edits sound more normal.

If you have the funds for it it isn't a waste to just find a reasonably decent video class and just take it. Your local community college is bound to have something that's perfectly adequate to show you the ropes of film making. I've never regretted taking classes like these. They're invariably fun, and you learn something. The danger is when you take it too seriously or expect to get too much out of it. This is just the first step. You'll learn to get good when you start making movies.

As a longer term goal, why not aim to submit a video to the Channel 102 competition? They have monthly screenings, so you could give yourself a deadline of October to make a 5 minute short to send to them. That gives you a month to learn how to use a video camera and editing tools, and another month to shoot and edit the short.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:20 PM on July 31, 2007

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