I made a special page for students on my website just so that I can share all of the amazing educational resources that I’ve found online. I first arrived in film school eager to learn the secrets behind the scenes in 2006, just one year after YouTube was launched.
Ten years later, there has been an incredible amount of peer-to-peer learning going on in the form of video tutorials, filmmaker vlogs and do-it-yourself success stories that anyone with a web browser can access. Digital technology and the proliferation of easy-to-share content has given us nothing less than a mass media renaissance that has redefined what it means to be a filmmaker, and more importantly, who gets to be a filmmaker.
My job is to teach people how to make films and videos at the University of North Texas and so I’m always looking for a better animated graphic of how lenses work or a really great video essay that summarizes an important filmmaking concept. I’ve collected the best of those videos in a series of YouTube playlists that I’ve organized into a curriculum that I like to think of as a “video textbook” which can be viewed as an online film school.
Vol. 1 Cinema Technica – How to produce your own films and videos.
Vol. 2 Cinema Esoterica – How to analyze, interpret and understand film form.
Vol. 3 Cinema Politica – How to be an aware, critical and skeptical media consumer.
Vol. 4 Movies About Movies – Documentaries about filmmakers, filmmaking and media.
With so much free educational material available, one may even stop to ask if something as archaic and analog as a film school is even necessary anymore. The question of whether or not to go to film school is a complicated one that every individual must answer for themselves, but whatever you choose you can rest assured that a film school degree is not a requirement for a career in filmmaking and much of what you need to know is at your fingertips. It’s a very exciting time to be a filmmaker.
If you’re thinking about film school I highly recommend these two links from the appropriately-named filmmaking blog No Film School. Perhaps a less controversial name would be “No Film School Required”. Here are two sides of the question presented by the book Film School: A Practical Guide to an Impractical Decision by Jason B. Kohl. Put simply, there are plenty of good reasons to go to film school, but lack of access to the mere information and instructions required to make films is not one of them.
I can only speak for myself. I know that my film school experience has been incredible, invaluable and could never be replicated by a series of videos, but the availability of such a library of study materials greatly enhanced my experience as a student. After spending a decade in college studying filmmaking I’ve noticed that I’ve spent as much of that time learning my craft from vlogers, podcasts and how-to videos as I have from my school lectures, required readings and classroom assignments.
Now don’t get me wrong. Nothing can compare to the educational experience of actually making and finishing things together. But for the mere information and instructions required to get started, I’d say it’s about 50% classroom lectures and 50% resources that I found online, including recordings of other lectures from educators who’s perspectives and insight can be just as valuable and enlightening.
I don’t say that to criticize the classroom experience. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have some incredible teachers over the years, but I’ve been equally fortunate that some of those teachers have committed their lessons to the formal conventions of sharable, online videos as an expression of an open-source pedagogy that I truly admire. If making and understanding media is important to a free and open society, then the free availability of these lessons is an investment in our future and a collective win for democracy in media.
More to the point, it means more people making more media in more different ways for more diverse audiences than ever before and I think that’s pretty cool. Put another way, if you want to be a filmmaker and you have a passion for telling stories, you now have a lot fewer excuses for not getting started. So what are you waiting for?