“Are we ever going to use this?” It’s a refrain echoed in American classrooms from elementary school through college. And really, if you want a career in the movies, how often in life will you ever have to use physics, geometry or social studies?
Plenty, actually. That is, if you’re doing it right. The strangest pieces of knowledge will come up in this business and your response will dictate whether or not you get a job. Whether you’re in a room pitching a script, dictating a poster idea to a graphic artist or looking over a contract – English, history, art, music and business law need to be in your arsenal. And since a lot of networking is done on a surfboard, on a golf course or after a game of beach volleyball, hopefully, you passed gym class.
The more one takes out of education, the more that person can now be a part of the conversation, and when doing business in a marketplace of ideas, it’s important to speak up. But there’s a chat room in this industry where the conversation is increasingly more difficult to join, and that’s in the fast-paced arena of film technology. It’s an area in which production companies, studios and freelancers need to make that extra effort to stay on top of and devise more ways to democratize access to training and information.
One of the first questions I get asked about going to USC film school by aspiring students is “What is the access like to equipment?” Film school is one of the few places that one has an opportunity to use expensive technical equipment that, unless you have a lot of money or a dad who’s a director, you’d otherwise never get to touch. And with technology changing so quickly, that knowledge is cutting-edge for only a few years before it’s outdated. The best one can hope to do is train in technique and hope to learn on the job.
Once, or if, you land a job, the focus becomes myopic. One’s own cog in the wheel is the center of attention, so one rarely gets to take a tour of the whole factory to see how the sausage is made. Producers need to know more about RED camera workflow in post-production in order to plan productions more accurately. Writers need to learn more about the future of interactive technology so they won’t be left behind as studios start to request more integrative storytelling techniques. Executives need to be on top of up-and-coming social media and distribution platforms. The problem is that this technology is up-and-coming so fast that one can quickly get cut out of the conversation and the jobs that go with those chats.
The more of us who understand the complete process of making films – see the matrix, so to speak – the more we can use technology to communicate new and interesting ideas. Unfortunately, it’s increasingly difficult to get access to hands-on training. Graduate school is too expensive, labs are exclusive and the majority of talks and extension classes focus on skills that aren’t necessarily learned in the classroom, like writing or having conversations with actors. We need to come up with a solution to this problem because this question is going to be on the test.
Gina Hall is a writer/producer with more than 10 years experience in television, documentary and feature film production. She is a graduate of USC’s school of Cinematic Arts and lives in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @GScottEnt.