Sunday, March 1, 2015

The 10 Classes You Absolutely Need to Take in Film School (Or Any College)


Many students go through film school just taking the classes they need to graduate. Now there's nothing inherently wrong with this. However many miss out on fabulous classes that can help in the later careers and even help them get those all important internships.

College classes make up a large part of your Linkedin Profile and, if you are lacking in actual experience, I even would recommend putting relevant ones on your resume.

Since registration for the Fall semester is coming up the following is a list of classes that I believe not only look great to HR Recruiters, but also prove worthy in the long run. We have also included alternatives for those wishing to go into entertainment internships from normal Universities and colleges. 

  1. An 'Industry Insiders' or Panel Class 
These classes are structured around a speaker or a panel of speakers from the industry giving real advice and relevant industry info to students. Not only do these classes present an enormous networking opportunity, they also provide up-to-date information of the ever-changing entertainment industry. All of the major film schools offer a course such as this. If you happen to attend a film school that does not or are unable to fit it in your class schedule, it is very likely your schools has an annual 'Entertainment Symposium' or conference that will provide a similar shortened experience. For instance, Chapman's Women in Film conference and UCLA's Entertainment Symposium. 

If you don't attend film school:  I would suggest attending any film festivals you can (South by Southwest, Austin Film Festival, Sundance, etc.) as they often have keynote speakers. Even comic cons panels can be helpful in gaining a knowledge of the industry. However, please don't put that you attended comic con on your resume (unless you happen to be applying to Marvel). 

2. An Entertainment or Mass Media Law Class

The Entertainment industry runs on contracts. Contracts for writers, contracts for negotiating salary, contracts that allow productions to use the word 'Zumba'. By the way, never use the word Zumba in a production (its trademarked). Any mass media law is essential to gaining an ability to read legal documents that control the entertainment industry. In fact, if you want to intern in Business Affairs you simply must take one of these classes before your internship. 

If you don't attend film school: I would suggest checking if your college or university has a business law or constitutional law class (often found in the Political Science Department). Although it won't be catered directly to entertainment, the ability to read and understand the law will help substantially in your career.   

3. A Development or Introductory Screenwriting Class

If you are lucky enough to have a development class or a class that teaches you how to write coverage... take it! If not, a standard screenwriting class will do. It will teach you to identify good structure, character arcs, and decent dialogue. A must if you want to intern in Development, Advertising, and even Production.

If you don't attend film school: Guess what! Most schools with English or Creative Writing Degrees offer an Introduction Screenwriting Course. If not, a standard Creative Writing Course will do. However, you can take screenwriting courses at most Improv centers (UCB, Second City, etc) and online. Just Google it!

4. An Editing or Documentary Class 

Regardless of if you don't want to go into either editing or documentary filmmaking, these courses teach you a very important lesson: it is in the editing room that the story of a film/tv show comes together. Documentary filmmaking is super low crew and gives you hands on experience in all aspects of production. Either class would benefit a future filmmaker or studio exec better. 

If you don't attend film school: I'm sorry! Maybe try filming your own documentary or taking a film production class if your school offers one. Theatre classes are also a good alternative. 

5. Film Scheduling or Financing Class

Pretty self explanatory. 

If you don't attend film school: Getting on set as a First AD is probably the best alternative to this. Taking a couple finance classes won't hurt either.

6. A 'Film Aesthetics' Class/ Film Studies Class

Most Film Production students shy away from taking Film Studies classes. However an introductory class in film studies will explain all the elements that make up a film (from actors, to coloring, to score, to mechanical effects). It is truly the end all be all of film school classes. If I had to take just one class in film school, this would be it. 

If you don't attend film school: Most schools offer some sort of film studies classes. 

7.  A Business Ethics Class

The best way to prepare for a corporate setting or an internship in Business Affairs. 

If you don't attend film school: Schools with business schools always offer one of these at the lower division level. 

8. Statistics

The Entertainment Industry conducts research, surveys, and polls on everything: from upcoming releases to promos to taglines. A basis in Stats is important to creating those ever important research presentations for execs as an intern and in the future. 

If you don't attend film school: All schools offer Statistics classes. I can also suggest a Stats for Business class. 

9.  Public Speaking

If you can't pitch you won't go far in Hollywood. 

If you don't attend film school: It is likely offered. If not, I would suggest a Theatre or Improv class in order to learn to be comfortable talking in front of other people. 

10.  Graphic Design

If you can't tell from the resumes we suggest, graphic design abilities go a long way in Hollywood. They assist in the crafting of presentations, creation of selling materials, and will even allow you to criticize mock ups.

If you don't attend film school: These exist at any school with an art department. If you wish to continue your studies, I would also suggest a typography, presentation design, or color theory class. If you happen to be at a smaller school where places in these classes are limited, a basic art class can do wonders.  

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© No Experience Required Maira Gall.