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Education on a Grand Scale

Education on a Grand Scale

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Shoot Camp USA
Recent Shoot Camp USA participants at FMC.

If you don’t live in Hollywood but are interested in getting an
education in moviemaking, Filmmaker’s Central School of Cinema
may be the answer. Though the program calls Los Angeles home, their
mission is to educate aspiring moviemakers on a global level-and
they’re not afraid to bring the program to you!

By partnering with film festivals, organizations
and moviemakers around the world-and with an instructional video
series in the works-Filmmaker’s Central is about to give new
meaning to the term “global
education.” Here, the school’s executive director and co-founder,
Rayelle Belleau, talks about their unique approach to film school,
their international expansion and what a hands-on education can
teach a student about “follow-through.”

Jennifer Wood (MM): Filmmaker’s Central
is not your typical film school for many reasons. What is the
number one
thing that you think makes this program different from the other
available educational opportunities?

Rayelle Belleau (RB): Our programs are all non-prerequisite,
with year-round admission, and are open to everyone. The classes
and workshops are both job and topic specific. Our student body
represents 40 countries internationally, and practically every
corner of the Untied States, including Alaska and the Hawaiian
islands, with ages ranging from 16 to 80 years old. If a student
is trying to become a filmmaker/crew member or simply trying to
become a better one, these classes provide the student the up-to-date
information and experience they need to reach their goals.

MM: Filmmaker’s Central is made up of several different
components that tackle the various means of film education-from
on-site classes to traveling events. What is the organization’s
official mission statement?

RB: It’s our mission to be an enthusiastic provider of
quality training for everyone. We are dedicated to teaching practical
information and providing a hands-on experience to the student
filmmaker, as well as supporting them even after they move forward
in their careers. Our unique old Hollywood style “learning by doing
it right” approach, combined with a respect for new technologies,
sets us apart from the rest. Our instructors are mentors, and are
not only excellent teachers but are actually working Hollywood
industry professionals.

MM: As well as directing, digital
moviemaking, cinematography and script supervision, FMC offers
classes in just about every
area of film production-including those not normally offered
by traditional film schools (financing, sound, assistant directing,
etc.). How do you go about developing your course curriculum?
What factors are taken into account?

RB: The movie industry needs competent,
skilled people-and
there’s a real shortage when it comes to the right kind of training
and support. Our curriculum is forever changing. We’re always updating
to meet the needs of our student body and the industry. The classes
are developed primarily from the suggestions and submissions from
our participating student body, alumni and the school’s 53,000-plus
active Internet subscribers and readers.

Our participants drive our school’s direction. We listen to their
desires and needs and act accordingly. Once a new course has been
selected, we look to the filmmaking community for an enthusiastic
working professional and develop a course for the selected topic.
The course incorporates the FMC “learn by doing it right” standard
approach, which includes personalized small class sizes, group
applied exercises, simulations, presentations and special guest
lectures.

MM: FMC takes a number of their classes “on the road” by
pairing with like-minded film organizations. This fall you’ll
be working with Women in Film Las Vegas, the NYC Independent
Horror Film Festival and Entertainment Technology World, to name
just a few. Who are some of the other groups you have-or plan
to-partner with and how do you go about choosing these groups?

RB: Realizing that not everyone can
travel to Los Angeles, and to be true to our mission– if you
can’t come to us, we’ll
come to you! The film community is truly global, and Filmmaker’s
Central is keeping up with the global needs. We’ve been partnering
with both individual filmmakers and filmmaking groups to make it
happen. We believe collaborations with individuals, universities,
community colleges, industry retailers, sponsors and many other
organizations and people help to nurture grassroots, homegrown
feature film, TV production and talent/crew in the hometowns of
our participants throughout the world. We are currently working
with individuals, colleges and organizations from Hawaii, Texas,
Florida, Canada and even as far a Beijing for 2004. It’s a very
exciting time for us!

MM: Shoot Camp USA is probably FMC’s most intense program-where
participants spend a week making their movie from start to finish.
Can you talk a little bit about how this program came to be,
what you expect of participants and how people can sign up?

RB: Shoot Camp USA is moviemaking in
the real world. It came from a desire to provide a program for
people who really wanted
to get into the trenches of filmmaking by making a true “Hollywood-style” movie.
Shoot Camp USA is a full eight days of filmmaking, where students
produce, direct, edit and become the crew of a live-action, short
feature film!

The script is selected before shooting begins from
our Screenwriting Extreme project. This allows the FMC staff time
to acquire fantastic
locations, hold casting sessions and hire a professional crew to
guide the students during the program. This way they can learn
to do it right the first time. Shoot Camp USA is a one-of-a-kind,
life-changing experience. We only allow 12 students to participate
in the program at a time, so in order to find the right combination
of students to undertake such a collaboration, students are selected
by application only at http://www.onlinefmc.com/application.html.

MM: I hear that you’re also in the process of developing
an instructional video. Do you believe that film education can
be taught just as effectively with a video as it can in a classroom?
How will you translate the “hands-on” approach taken in your
classroom setting to the home video market?

RB: Just like we don’t claim to be able
to replace a four-year college or a traditional three-year film
program, we know an instructional video will never replace the
classroom experience. The instructional videos are for those students
that can’t make it to the classroom because of distance or time.
In translating our “hands on approach” for our Digital Film School
course, for example, we feature the equipment with lots of close-ups
and universal instruction and principles that can be applied toward
the students’ own equipment or rented gear they can find in their
own areas. Combined with a home study work section and a detailed
workbook, students can practice, test gear and shoot on their own.
Just like any at home, self-study college course, students get
a required reading and needed equipment list to complete their
studies, and it’s up to them. One great thing: our e-mail and phone
lines are always open for student questions.

MM: Having an education in film is one thing, but finding
a job in the industry is something different altogether. What
does FMC offer in the way of career planning or placement services
to its graduates and attendees?

RB: We are continually adding resources,
choices and events for our alumni to utilize and attend to help
with their careers.
We provide ways for them to continue the relationships they form
with our staff, instructors, industry affiliations and each other
during their studies with us. We have also partnered with organizations
such as CrewNet, the film and television industry’s employment
resource. Our graduates are exposed to the Job Hotline, which is
updated daily and a place where they can create their own personal
resume Wwebsites called RezSites.

We also provide a message board for listing opportunities, production
companies to list jobs and subscribers to network with each other.
In addition to our open door policy, our instructors make themselves
available for phone calls, e-mails and even generate and participate
in online group discussions.

MM: It seems that you’ve got almost every angle of the
film education market covered right now-are there any ideas/markets
left that you plan to conquer? What developments can we expect
to see from FMC in the future?

RB: I am pleased to announce for the
first time our new Shoot Camp Jr. teen program, created specifically
for the teenage filmmaker that will officially launch in April
2004. Shoot Camp Jr. has been modeled after the already successful
program for adults, Shoot Camp USA.

Shoot Camp Jr. is an intensive
program designed to give young people confidence in their abilities,
as well as
knowledge and skills they can use in the future. The vision of
Shoot Camp Jr. is to teach high school students the skills necessary
to jumpstart them to compete in the entertainment industry with
special emphasis on the building of character, teamwork, virtue,
discipline and self-esteem. They’ll work hard and have lots of
fun building social relationships, becoming “connected” to the
filmmaking community and making a fantastic project. It’s a great
time to be a teenager!

MM: Lastly, what’s your favorite
FMC success story?

RB: There are so many. We’ve had people
from all walks of life. Our programs have attracted average first-timers
to industry
pros, Hollywood celebrities, professional athletes, doctors and
those in the corporate world. However, I think the one person who
stands out is a farm girl from Pennsylvania.

Sherry Waple worked an office job and saved up her money and resources
to attend our Shoot Camp USA 2002 program. She came to Shoot Camp
about as non-Hollywood as you can be. Her hard work and dedication
at Shoot Camp paid off. By showing investors the completed project
from Shoot Camp USA 2002, Radio Silence, she was able to
demonstrate her collaborative and technical abilities to complete
a quality product. She gained their confidence and raised the money
for the short Poultry and Prejudice, which was just completed
with Kristina Foster (another Shoot Camp 2002 alumni) this summer.
This achievement has lead to her success in acquiring the financing
for her next project, which is a 35mm full feature in pre-production
due to shoot next summer. It’s for real!

Sherry’s not alone. We have many stories just like hers, and stories
about genuine enthusiasm and success. Our alumni follow through!
It’s the root of our success and it’s what Filmmaker’s Central
is all about.

For
more information on Filmmaker’s Central School of Cinema, visit http://www.onlinefmc.com or call 323/467-6580.

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