I was asked this question by a reader whose friend made the big decision to attend film school.
So... how do I support a film student?
1. Believe in their industry
We live in a world that just doesn't understand what goes into making a movie. I've heard the joke "I thought movies just happened" too many times. I laugh, so they won't feel silly... but wow, films do not just happen!
There are days/weeks of planning. There's negotiating for every little detail. There are hours spent in the cold and rain to "get that shot." Then there are days and days of editing and sound editing. Plus many heated discussions over how to properly tell a story.
I have put this VERY lightly... There's also a lot of kissing ass, dealing with two-faced people and trying to maintain friendships. Sounds like every industry, huh?
2. Believe in their choice to get a higher education in film
This is the most difficult. Why do I need to learn how to be creative? Well actually, you don't. You learn how to put that creativity onto a screen. You learn how to manage yourself and your story telling. You also learn the business which can take years of "learning from mistakes" to get right.
It still takes years to fully understand this world of film, but film school gives you a head start.
I blogged about applying to film school here. In addition to answering questions about the application process, I also answer "why should I go to film school?"
3. Realize that they won't be employed right away
This is the hardest for my dad. He just doesn't get that a Master's degree won't lead to an immediate position as an apprentice, an assistant, or a full time job with health benefits.
We won't have health benefits for awhile...
Your role in the film industry, even after graduation from film school, is entirely up to you. No one will say "oh my gosh, you graduated from film school, please run my production company!"
Wouldn't that be awesome?? But film school does help you to walk onto a set or walk into an office and know exactly what to expect.
You have to create your own path to how you'll "get there." And, that my friend, is something no one can teach you.
(Realized I switched tenses there -- from "them" to "you" ...just roll with it...)
4. They will be malnutritioned and over worked
Your friend in film school will not cook on a regular basis like they did back in your hometown. They will not sleep all day on a Saturday like you currently do...
In fact, the weekends are when ALL the work really gets done! As a film student, you work all week to prepare for the weekend of shooting. So think about it, you work 18 hour days during the week, and then have to be fresh and creative when you're actually shooting the movie on the weekend.
5. Learn their curriculum & try to get their inside jokes
I can only speak as far as USC is concerned, but we have a lot of weird lingo. "546" "507" "508" and let's all remember "510" on Fridays! ugh!! (heehee)
We have so many inside jokes, it's disgusting, and I'm sure quite annoying to the outsider.
Here are a few:
"Zemeckis Parking Lot!!"
"Did you hear about that 508 that killed an actor with a dolly?"
"Not only do we support nudity, we encourage it"
"That could be a 507!"
"The School of Cinematic Dentistry"
Did you get them all? Aren't they HILARIOUS? ha! But seriously, just ask, "Friend, why is that so funny?" and then you'll be a part of the film crew!
**Thanks to Mike Tounian, Barb Steele, Jessica Marie Sutherland, and Michael Newman for the help with the list!**
6. Understand that they will have new best friends
When I first came to film school, I was shocked to actually be working with people who didn't mind waking up at 6am to go to set or stay up all night to get an edit perfect. Some of the people I worked with in the past were too busy planning their Friday night or would come to set hungover.
A 5 minute scene in my past life took 2 - 3 hours. Now it takes 2 - 3 days.
I honestly felt at home when I came to USC - when I came to Los Angeles.
Everyone around me knew exactly what I was going through and wanted the same things out of life as me. We knew how to support each other, and thanks to the USC Mafia, we will continue to support each other.
This means your friend may make new friends. They may not call as much. They may even feel that you two have nothing in common anymore. But remember why you're friends and that will always shine through. Don't force it - your film student friend is trying to figure themselves out right now. They're trying to figure out if Los Angeles should be their new home (at least for now). After all, LA is probably where they need to be if they want to be successful in the film industry. (I went through this thought process too.)
And if you want to support them, you need to encourage them to stay in LA and not return home to Small Town, USA to make commercials for a living. (I had a long distance boyfriend do that to me...the relationship did not last much longer...**NOTE: if you're DATING a film student...that's a whole different blog post I haven't been bold enough to write yet...**)
My best friends from undergrad are still my best friends. We can get on the phone after months of not talking and instantly be back where we left off.
If your film student friend knows they can call you to just talk and not get a guilt trip, then all is well!
Are you the Parent of a Film Student?
All of the above apply to parents as well. Plus:
1. Expect less calls during the week, especially when they are in the middle of production.
2. You should probably get the phone numbers of their roommates just in case you need to figure out where they are in a hurry.
3. Listen to their LIFE frustrations and try to help. My mom is amazing when it comes to this. For example, I call to tell her I don't eat well, so she sends me gift cards to restaurants or stores. I won't spend the money on myself to eat well, but if I have a gift card then I'm "forced" to buy it. It's just like being a freshmen in college again. I love going home because I get a real meal!
4. Don't try to solve all of their problems - Encourage them to approach a mentor. If you're a parent that's NOT in the film industry then this is really important. Sometimes they need to go to a mentor to really understand and solve an issue.
Have more questions? Have anything to add? Post Below!