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Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

Articles - Education

Columbia College Hollywood

In any college curriculum,
there are electives and there are requirements. Since 1952, for
students at Columbia
College Hollywood, making a movie is the latter. Taking a hands-on
approach to the moviemaking process, one thing the school guarantees
is that you won’t leave there without having made at least one
movie.

Here, CCH’s Director of Admissions (and alum)
Amanda Kraus talks about their student body, state-of-the-art
facilities and the Columbia
College advantage.

Jennifer Wood (MM): Can you talk
a bit about the school’s
mission-and how Columbia College Hollywood is different from
the other film programs out there?

Amanda Kraus (AK): Our mission statement
is to turn out artists with technical proficiency and technicians
who are also
artists. Our students benefit from four years of hands-on education.
Within their first quarter they’re using cameras and making their
own films. The school is kept small with one goal in mind: personal
attention.

Our students work closely with their instructors,
who are industry professionals, and they learn the technology
of the industry. An
average class will have no more than 10 students, one teacher and
one teacher’s assistant-creating a five-to-one student-to-teacher
ratio. Our students learn by doing. Our motto is “shoot first and
ask questions later.”

MM: The school has a very strong
emphasis on “hands-on” learning.
What are the ways you go about ensuring that your students leave
with a strong foundation of how to make a movie?

AK: I guess the way we assure that is that they make movies here.
Making movies here is not a privilege, it is a requirement. Students,
within their four years, can shoot over 25 movies on their own.
Also, they are expected to work in a team effort on all of the
other projects going on in the school.

We are a major production school. In any given quarter we shoot
from 80 to 100 short projects. Most schools do not even do half
of that in a year.

MM: How important is the theoretical
side of moviemaking to CCH-studying film theory, analysis,
etc.?

AK: It’s important. However, we combine theory with hands-on
[moviemaking]. In some classes you learn by lecture then you apply
what you have just talked about. Filmmaking is a “doing” process.

MM: The school is a four-year, baccalaureate-degree
granting institution. What are your student demographics: have
a lot of students gained degrees at other institutions, or is
this the first for most?

AK: The average age range is 18 to 24. We have kids right
out of high school, transfer students and a handful of older students
who work in the industry and need to learn a new technology.

MM: What are your admissions requirements at CCH? Who
do you think makes the best CCH student?

AK: Admission consists of an application, a personal essay,
two reference letters and a high school degree with at least a
C average. If transferring, then we need college transcripts as
well.

Our students have what I like to call the “three Ds”: discipline,
desire and dedication. Dreams are what they have, and possessing
the three Ds turns their dreams into goals-goals which they achieve.
It’s an honor to see them come alive and grow as filmmakers.

MM: How many students are currently enrolled?

AK: At the very most we have 150 students at any one time.
The school is kept small so we can achieve all of the things I
mentioned.

MM: What sort of facilities does CCH maintain? What
sort of equipment is available to students?

AK: We have 16mm cameras (ARRI SR1,
ARRI SR 2, CP-16, Bolex and Éclair); sound equipment (both analog and digital); lights
(HMI’s, 1K, 2K, 5K, 10K & Kino Flows); digital cameras (VX2000,
VX9000, XL-1, XL-S, basic Mini DV; Glidecams; dollies and dolly
track; lenses (prime and zoom); filters; expendables (gels and
scrims).

We teach 35mm and Hi-Def (those cameras come
from the gods of Panavision and ARRI, as you cannot own the newest
models) and Steadicam
workshops, as well. We have pretty much everything you need to
make a movie. Plus, as a student, you are covered under the school’s
production insurance, which will allow you to rent a special piece
of equipment if you need something we do not have. This is a must
also for shooting on location.

We also have 14 editing bays that run Avid, Final Cut Pro, Pro
Tools, After Effects and Photoshop, as well as a library with 5,000
books on film and a live TV studio/film stage.

MM: As there are no on-campus housing facilities, how
does CCH strive to bring students together as a community?

AK: We have a student government that puts together events
for the students, such as festivals and BBQs. We also have a faculty
association that plans functions for the students, such as seminars
and guest speakers from the industry.

MM: One thing you always hear from
film school graduates is that the people that they met in film
school are the people
they will continue working with throughout their careers. How
does CCH go about keeping their students in touch-with the school
and each other-post-graduation?

AK: Yes, our alumni are very important
to us. There are activities for alumni as well, including workshops
on new technology,
screenings of alum films and auctions of equipment. It is so true
about your film school friends being your future contacts in the
biz-I have so many friends from when I was a student who I have
gotten hundreds of different gigs from, and continue to get gigs
from. It’s all about networking.

There is also an alumni advisory board where
grads help our current students with their careers. We have a
98 percent success rate,
so I think we’re doing pretty well.

MM: If you had to give just one reason why someone should
choose Columbia College Hollywood over all of their other film
school options, what would it be?

AK: CCH is a loving, nurturing environment
where a student can come and make his or her dreams of being
a filmmaker a reality.
Again, here at CCH making a film here is not a privilege-it is
a requirement.

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