Another Arguement Against Film School?

This week I went to a screening of Slingshot HipHop at the International House that was part of this great new series called Planet Rock .

Now available on dvd!
Now available on dvd!

The film is very strong in its production quality, use of animation and graphics as transitions, and its narrative focus on a few different artists and following their stories as we become familiar with their music.

It does what my favorite type of documentaries do well–focus on personal stories as a reflection of a larger system of policies and opinions. It humanizes a situation in which people are so often faceless and dehumanized–which in my perspective on social change is the key to shifting power imbalances and oppression.

If you are looking for a primer on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the history of that region, or context for the Intifada(s), however, this is not going to provide you too much of that. Which is totally fine. Its strength is that it pulls people in through their interest in hiphop and then pushes them to want to learn more about the situation and people there.

The filmmaker, Jackie Reem Salloum, was at the screening. From her comments after the screening and the brief exchange I had with her, I couldn’t help but revisit a conclusion I’d been tossing around in my head the past year or so: is film school actually the best route for becoming a documentary filmmaker?

Jackie is the third documentary filmmaker I’ve met in the past few years with no formal academic film training who said something along the lines of “If I had known it would take me 4-7years and $200,000 to make this film, I might have never done it.”

The potential problem with film school is that you learn about every aspect of producing a feature length documentary film beforehand.

And it’s daunting.

It’s hard to wrap your mind around how you’re going to spend the next 4-7 years (average length to make a feature length doc) fitting this project into your life.

And figuring out the money and resources is enough to make you give up completely.

Abeer, from Lyd (still from Slingshot HipHop)
Abeer, from Lyd (still from Slingshot HipHop)

I admire people like Jackie who had no idea what was ahead of them and as she said just thought, I’m going to Palestine to visit my family, I should bring a camera with me and make a little film.

And she made it work.

I remember a year or so ago when she found out that she got into Sundance and there was a mass grassroots fundraising effort from friends and supporters to raise money to finish the editing and sound mix in time and lay down a master cut. It was amazing to witness.

So if you asked me if you should go to filmschool, my answer would still be I’m not sure.


One Comment

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  1. You can be ultra talented and not need to go to film school. It depends on what your goals are and where you are in your career!

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