When Full Sail University was founded in 1979, its focus was on teaching its students about the latest developments in audio and sound technology. It has since added degree programs geared toward different aspects of the entertainment industry, including music production, game development, media design and, of course, film. Believe it or not, a lot of things have changed about the technological aspects of moviemaking since the 1970s, so part of Full Sail’s mission is to ensure its students stay up-to-date on the latest technical advancements. Full Sail’s determination to ensure that its alumni get off on the right foot—and the fact that Full Sail students actually have access to the newest technologies through the school’s state-of-the-art, on-campus production facilities—has led to some very successful Full Sail graduates. One thing that Oscar-winning films Avatar, Inglorious Basterds and The Blind Side all have in common? You’ll see Full Sail graduates in the credits of all three.

Full Sail’s Director of Visual Art, Rick Ramsey, took the time to answer some of MovieMaker’s questions about the school’s history—and its future.

Rebecca Pahle (MM): What sets Full Sail apart from other film schools?

Rick Ramsey (RR): Full Sail University’s programs were designed to give our students the most immersive and relevant educational experience possible by providing a foundation for what we call Real World Education. By basing all of our degree programs around project-based curricula, we strive to give students experience with the tools and concepts they’ll be working with in the entertainment industry.

When it comes to learning how to shoot film, the students in our accelerated Film Bachelor of Science Degree program are using the same professional gear that’s used in Hollywood, from 16mm, 35mm and HD cameras, cranes and lighting rigs to Full Sail’s own multi-locale backlot.

Full Sail’s 191-acre campus includes a complete film production facility, with resources that include permanent indoor sets, an exterior backlot featuring 19 different outdoor scenic facades from around the world, and multiple sound stages where students can construct their own sets to fit any time period or location their scripts call for. The campus also includes casting areas and prop and scenery shops.

Also, Project LaunchBox is a Full Sail initiative that provides students with powerful Apple technology to help them create music, film, games, animation, and design projects. Project LaunchBox complements Full Sail’s programs by providing students with access to a complete mobile studio for use throughout their school career and after graduation. Each film student’s MacBook Pro is loaded with software including Final Cut Studio, Adobe Master Suite CS5 and VectorWorks, just to name a few. With this unique combination of professional software and hardware, Full Sail students now have uninterrupted access to the tools they need. This mobile studio also allows them to have their portfolio conveniently at their fingertips at all times.

MM: Do you encourage your film students to direct their study to specific areas of interest, or do you favor a more general approach?

RR: In Full Sail’s Film program, students work side by side with a unique group of people who share their passion to make great films. We believe there’s no better way to learn than by doing; that’s why the coursework we offer puts our students on-set, behind the camera, and in the editing suite. Students will get hands-on experience working each position on-set on a variety of different small-scale assignments, enabling them to get a feel for the role that each crew member plays in a production.

The process begins just like it does in Hollywood, with vital pre-production work. Students learn what it takes to flesh out a film’s story, finalize scripts, and create storyboards. They also prepare budgets, schedule shoots, and hold casting calls for onscreen talent.

In our editing labs and suites, students learn the post-production process, by cutting, rearranging, and enhancing footage, recording and editing additional dialogue, sound effects, music, as well as adding visual effects and titles.

MM: Full Sail started out as a place to learn about audio and sound. A lot has changed since then at the University; what are some of the more recent changes Full Sail has made to keep up with the ever-changing film industry?

RR: More than 30 years ago, Full Sail began as a dream to create a place where people could learn how to take their passion for entertainment and turn it into a career they loved. It started with music and sound, but our dream quickly grew to fit the dreams of our students until it was bigger than we could have ever imagined. Film, design, show production, games, animation, Web design, the business of the entertainment world… as the years go by, the dream continues to grow, and we are humbled by the success of our graduates as well as the passion of our teachers and mentors, all of whom contribute to making this one of the most unique educational communities on the planet.

MM: Are there any plans for future changes?

RR: Future changes include the launch of the new Digital Cinematography Bachelor of Science Degree Program. This 32-month online degree provides students with a focused knowledge and understanding of digital cinematography necessary to be successful in a host of digital-video and digital-filmmaking fields of the entertainment and media industry.

The Digital Cinematography Bachelor of Science Degree program educates students on how the critical application of new technologies can create inspiring cinematic and commercial works. Class offerings in this degree program encompass all aspects of the digital cinematography field, ranging from photography, HD video production, visual effects and lighting, to digital filmmaking techniques, audio post-production, Internet marketing and film distribution.

MM: How does receiving a Full Sail education help students start their careers?

RR: Full Sail University provides our students with the most immersive and relevant educational experience possible, giving then the skills and knowledge they will need to pursue their dream career.

Once they’ve experienced the filmmaking process through the multiple projects assigned to them throughout the program, it’ll be time for them to assemble a crew and create their own 35mm film, from pre-production through post-production. After they’ve brought their script idea to life and screened their film for their classmates, family, and industry professionals, they’ll have another valuable asset for their reel–something that shows Hollywood and the rest of the world just what our students are capable of when they prepare to enter the film industry.

Also, Full Sail’s Career Development department is a valuable support system during our students’ education. Throughout their time at Full Sail–and even after graduation–the Career Development department is available to provide guidance to help our students plot their career course. Full Sail graduates are able to audit any course in their degree program at no cost to brush up on their skills or get training on the newest gear and technology. Every step of the way, from a student to an industry professional, Full Sail is committed to helping our students and alumni achieve their career goals.

MM: What have some Full Sail graduates gone on to accomplish?

RR: This year, 20 Full Sail University graduates worked on seven Oscar-winning films at the 82nd annual Academy Awards. Full Sail graduates have succeeded in industry roles on nine Best Picture winning films over the last 15 years, including this year’s Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker.

Graduates of Full Sail University worked on films that won in categories including: Best Picture, Best Performance by an Actor/Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Best Animated Feature, Directing, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Writing (Original Screenplay), Writing (Adapted Screenplay), Digital Short, Music (Original Score), Visual Effects, and Art Direction, and were credited on the winning films: Avatar, The Blind Side, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Up, and Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.

In addition, this year a total of 54 graduates were credited on 23 Oscar-nominated motion pictures including, but not limited to: Coraline, District 9, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Food, Inc., Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Logorama, Julie & Julia, Kavi, The Lovely Bones, The Messenger, Nine, A Serious Man, Sherlock Holmes, A Single Man, Star Trek, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Up In The Air.

MM: Anything you’d like to add?

RR: Since 1979, Full Sail University, located outside of Orlando, FL, has been an innovative educational leader for those pursuing careers in the entertainment industry. With over 34,500 alumni, graduate credits include work on Oscar, Emmy and Grammy-winning projects, best-selling video games, and #1 grossing U.S. concert tours. Full Sail’s 191-acre campus and online education platform proudly welcomes over 12,400 students from 50 states and 49 countries.

Full Sail was named the 2008 “School/College of the Year” by the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges. The university has also been previously named: The Harvard of Game Schools by Tips & Tricks one of the top three New Media Schools by Shift (alongside the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University); one of the Top Five Game Degree Programs in the world by Electronic Gaming Monthly; one of the Best Music Programs in the country by Rolling Stone; one of the Best Music Business Departments in the Schools That Rock: The Rolling Stone College Guide; and one of the Best Film Programs in the country by UNleashed Magazine.

For more information about Full Sail, please visit www.fullsail.edu.