Of Cinema and Cargo Pants
Palm Beach Film School’s Jim York provides words of wisdom for the moviemaker of tomorrow
by Jennifer Straus
Students get a hands-on education at the Palm Beach Film School.
Palm Beach, Florida may first bring to mind images of sandy beaches, palm trees, alligators and the Everglades, but more and more novice moviemakers are finding it is the perfect city to start learning their craft. The Palm Beach Film School (PBFS) has been largely responsible for this indie boom, bringing together the various members of Palm Beach’s moviemaking community to provide its students with a top-notch education in the cinema arts. Though the school’s home may not yet be as well known as film hubs like Austin, New York, or Los Angeles, PBFS director Jim York explains how students benefit from circumventing the bigger cities in favor of a hands-on, intensive education in the joys—and challenges—of becoming an independent moviemaker.
Jennifer Straus (MM): How would you describe the ideal PBFS student?
Jim York (JY): The ideal Palm Beach Film School student is a creative individual who has a passion for filmmaking and wants to learn in a “hands-on, learn-by-doing” method at an affordable tuition. Ideally, they should have good writing skills, a willingness to learn, be a team player—and a sense of humor wouldn’t hurt. Our students’ academic backgrounds range from a high school diploma to a PhD. The common denominator is their sense of creativity and desire to learn to make their own films.
MM: What is the typical “next step” for PBFS alumni? Do students keep going with their film education, or dive right into the industry?
JY: Most students go on to make more films utilizing their newly developed skills, contacts and fellow alumni. Upon completion of our course, we allow graduates continued use of the gear, equipment and facilities for their approved future films. Many of our filmmakers will submit their work to film festivals; other graduates dive right into the industry by landing entry-level positions at some of the numerous production companies in South Florida, where they can utilize HD camera and Final Cut Pro editing skills.
MM: How does being based in Palm Beach bring something special to the school that another city (such as New York or Los Angeles) would not?
JY: Palm Beach County is the perfect place to teach filmmaking, because the warm climate allows us to shoot outdoors almost every day of the year in beautiful tropical locations. Unlike expensive cities like New York or Los Angeles, it’s more affordable to shoot and easier to secure permits. We’re lucky to have such an outstanding film commissioner and supportive staff that developed the “Student One-Stop Permitting Process.” Palm Beach County is fast becoming the next Austin, TX for independent filmmaking.
MM: Do you find that the majority of your students are Florida-based? Do you see a common thread in the projects of local PBFS students versus those who come from out of state?
JY: The majority of the Palm Beach Film School students (75 percent) live in or around South Florida. About 25 percent of the students move here to attend the school from all around the United States. The screenwriting ideas of our students seem to be equally distributed between comedy, drama and horror.
MM: The PBFS is a school geared toward novice moviemakers: What is the first piece of advice you give students as they attempt to enter the highly competitive (and challenging) world of making movies?
JY: The first advice we give to students is: Buy cargo pants! The best advice we give is to not get discouraged, continue to take advantage of the benefits of attending the Palm Beach Film School, network with fellow graduates, volunteer to work on alumni films and most importantly, continue to make your own films.
MM: Considering the limited time frame of the school’s courses, why do you choose to divide the curriculum into four main concentrations, rather than a more general introduction to moviemaking?
JY: The curriculum at the Palm Beach Film School was designed to teach students how to write, shoot, direct and edit their own short, character-driven drama, comedy or horror films in eight or 16 weeks. We chose to focus on these four concentrations because they are the most important aspects of entry-level filmmaking. Rather than leaving the school after a lecture-based curriculum, students leave with first-hand experience and their first film on DVD.
For more information, visit www.palmbeachfilmschool.com.