This past August The Hollywood Reporter released its list of The Top 25 American Film Schools. A short two years ago I consulted this list in my college search because, frankly, I didn’t know the first thing about film school. I just knew I wanted to get in.
But after a year of story structure lectures and directing recitations, I’ve reached a better understanding of film in at least one sense. Whether you go to school in south Los Angeles or Greenwich Village, film school is about the classmates you meet there.
It’s the first day of your production course, and you’re broken into groups. The Writer will probably be one of the first to pitch an idea for your collaborative project. There’s a good chance she knows nothing about cameras. A kick ass screenplay is what got her into this school, not some crappy student film. She’ll have the best art-house quality idea in the group, but everyone will want to do the zombie time travel story instead.
Everyone but The Cinematographer. He remains cool and intimidatingly silent, with an old fashioned film camera dangling from his neck. One of his parents is probably from a European country. He has a seven syllable first name and refuses to be called by anything else. If you want your crap to look good, find the nearest Maximilian or Alejandro.
The Artist will walk in a bit late and plop down her canvas bag, filled with sketchbooks and charcoal pencils. She is a sculptor, a classical guitarist, a poet, a social activist, a vegan, as well as an experimental filmmaker. She’s basically everything you’ll never be, if you even tried.
The polar opposite of the Artist is The Producer. He’s probably the most insecure one in the group, telling his parents that he plans to go to study business or entertainment law after college. He’s incredibly organized, a little obsessive and secretly wants to be the director.
Honestly, everyone expects that they should be the director, but no one feels it as strongly as The Native Californian, and she has a point. Most of us fake it till we make it. But where she comes from, film is a vocation. She can’t believe your high school didn’t even offer video production as a part of the state curriculum requirements.
The Secret Actor is nothing but fun. This extrovert was the lead in all the school plays, but musical theater didn’t sound convincing enough to Mom and Dad. The Secret Actor shamelessly writes, directs and stars in each of his films. Sometimes, he’s full of it. But admittedly, he sometimes makes the most entertaining stuff in the class.
The Editor is probably a midwesterner. She didn’t have summer film camp or parents who bought her expensive equipment. She made mom’s old digital camera and iMovie work for her. She’s a perfectionist and knows everything about sound, color correction, even a little special effects. When you come back with crap from the film shoot, she’s the savior that pieces it into something presentable.
What you’ll find is your different personalities and styles will create friction and disagreements. But this is the catalyst for growth and artistic expression. Learning how to work together toward a common, meaningful goal is worth the absurd tuition we pay. And maybe someday we’ll make a movie together that shapes humanity for the better.
Thomas K. Fields is a student in the NYU/Tisch Undergraduate Film and TV Department from the class of 2017.
This piece originally appeared in Odyssey.