Paul and Diana Kessler
Los Angeles Film School co-owners, Paul and Diana Kessler

Film schools in Southern California sometimes seem almost as plentiful as actor/waiters, and they continue to churn out hundreds of freshly minted moviemakers each year. If you’re serious about getting a film education—and a career—in this land of dreams, you’d better have something unique to offer. For four and a half years now, the Los Angeles Film School has been doing just that—supplying aspiring moviemakers with the aesthetic and technical skills they need to "make it" in Hollywood. Here, LA Film School’s Marketing Director Jennifer Landon talks about what it takes to make a school great and three of the more important aspects of any school: location, location, location.

Jennifer Wood (MM): The Los Angeles Film School has been around for a while now. First, can you just give us a brief history of the school—when it was founded and the principals it was founded on?  

Jennifer Landon (JL): The school was founded in 1999 by seasoned film professionals who had the vision of creating a new kind of film school, one which they all wished they had attended. Some of them came from film schools, others came up through the ranks of the indie world, and some trained at studios back when training was still part of the studio system. The Los Angeles Film School celebrated its fourth anniversary September 9, 2003.  

MM: What do you think sets the Los Angeles Film School apart from other schools—in Hollywood and beyond?  

JL: Students at the LA Film School learn from a faculty of professional filmmakers who rotate between their movie sets and our classrooms, plus all students have an opportunity to work on at least six to eight film projects. Students shoot High Definition (HD), digital video (DV), 16mm and 35mm films, with premier location sound recording and lighting packages. Students graduate from the LA Film School with a reel of projects to which they own all rights.

MM: What are the areas of education you specialize in? What are the most popular classes?

JL: Students may specialize in up to two of the seven areas of study: Directing, Producing, Editing, Cinematography, Sound Design, Production Design and Screenwriting. The most popular disciplines at this time are Directing, Producing, Cinematography and Editing.  

MM: In your literature you mention the top five reasons for attending the LA Film School as: small, hands-on classes; a faculty of professional moviemakers; state-of-the-art facilities; students keep the rights to their films; and cost. Can you expound on each of these a bit?  

JL: Small classes are conducive to hands-on learning. We envision storytelling in film as the delicate orchestration of a highly trained, specialized team. This training is achieved only in an intense, mentored environment where students have a camera in their hands on day one of the program. Most classes are small (eight to 12 students per class), and students work under the close review of professional film mentors and peers.  

[We have] a faculty of professional filmmakers. One of the advantages of being located in the heart of Hollywood is having a faculty that is unparalleled in the world. Our faculty is staffed by working professional filmmakers who craft many of the most striking and original films of today. Their credits range from Ghostbusters II, Fight Club, Jerry Maguire, Smokey and the Bandit II and Minority Report to Tempest and Romancing the Stone. Other films with which our faculty have been closely involved include Forrest Gump, Mr. Holland’s Opus and The Joy Luck Club.  

Our state-of-the-art facility offers students access to Avid Media editing systems, Digidesign ProTools Mix workstations and a 96-input Solid State Logic Axiom digital re-recording console. Our campus includes 4,000-square feet of digital soundstages and a cyclorama, and a 345-seat THX Dolby Digital Surround Sound EX wide-screen Motion Picture Theater.  

Students own rights to their films. Students own outright all the films and projects they make at The Los Angeles Film School.  

The intensive 12-month program at The Los Angeles Film School costs a fraction of tuition at traditional four-year colleges. We are interested in helping future filmmakers build their careers with as minimum a debt as possible. 

MM: The school has undergone a number of changes recently, including partnering with Florida’s Full Sail. Can you talk briefly about this partnership and what it means for the school? How will this affect the current curriculum, faculty, etc.? 

JL: The owners of LA Film School have partnered with the owners of Full Sail.  However, the schools remain and will continue to be independently operated. We are constantly improving our curriculum based on internal ideas as well as looking at the great ideas that other film schools may have. All schools can and do work collaboratively.  

MM: In what other ways does the Los Angeles Film School work with other organizations—educational or otherwise—for the betterment of its curriculum? Your school is literally surrounded by some of the industry’s most important companies, including iFilm, Paramount Pictures and Raleigh Studios. How do you make the best use of your geography for students?

JL: Having The Los Angeles Film School located in the “Heart of Hollywood” has many advantages. Our students are constantly being offered internships at the fabulous nearby studios, submitting their projects to iFilm and listening to guest lecturers who are able to drive very short distances to speak and do Q & As for our students at our own 345-seat THX Dolby Surround Sound Theater.

From our campus, a student can walk east two blocks and be at the Gower Studios, south two blocks and be at Paramount, down Sunset and find themselves at the Directors Guild or down Hollywood Boulevard and walk the “walk of stars” to the new Kodak Theater, home of the Academy Awards. 

MM: How does the school work to bring students into the fold of the local moviemaking community in Los Angeles? What opportunities are students given—for internships or employment—in collaboration with local businesses?

JL: LA Film School students are constantly involved with our filmmaking faculty who are all experts in their respective fields. Our faculty is unique in that they rotate between our LA Film School classrooms and their personal movie sets, and at times ask our students to join them on the set upon graduation. The LA Film School creates “The Networking” environment for aspiring filmmakers from day one of a student’s enrollment in our program. 

MM: What other new announcements/advancements can we expect to see from the Los Angeles Film School in 2004 and beyond?

JL: Stay tuned. With the caliber of student that we graduate from The Los Angeles Film School, only the skies are the limit.