When MovieMaker asked a range of successful indie filmmakers to participate in our Film School Roundtable article for our upcoming Summer issue, we received a wide range of insightful, hilarious, and diverse answers. We’re featuring some of our favorites on moviemaker.com over the next few weeks, leading up to the newsstand release on July 7.

The three questions we asked each alum: What did you do right in film school, what did you do wrong, and what advice would you have for 2015’s incoming class of budding auteurs? Like the cool upperclassmen whose brains you always wanted to pick, but were too shy to vocalize, we’re happy to step in as your moderator and fraternal big brother.

This week, Rick Famuyiwa (University of Southern California, Class of 1996) shares his wisdom. The director’s high-school comedy, Dope, opened in theaters June 19.


1. What did you do right when you were in film school?

Rick Famuyiwa (RF): I took the opportunity to absorb everything—including film history and theory, not just production and techniques. I wasn’t one of those kids who had made dozens of films with Super-8 and home video cameras before coming to school. I was learning and searching for my voice. It was great.

2. What did you do wrong when you were in film school?

RF: There’s was an acting class for directors that I wish I had taken. I was too self-conscious and nervous about acting (thus my career behind the camera), but I always regretted not taking it. I love working with actors and to have some small insight into their process would have been a nice arrow in my quiver.

Dope director Rick Famuyiwa

Dope director Rick Famuyiwa

3. What’s the one best piece of advice you’d give to an incoming film student, so that they can make the most of their time at film school?

RF: Shoot on film. Actual celluloid. And find an old Moviola or flatbed and cut actual film with splices. It will hone your eye and instincts. MM

Dope opened in theaters June 19, 2015, courtesy of Open Road Films.