Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stay in LA: Sometimes We Have to Stay Here

I response to my last post, Bruce Postman from Columbia College Hollywood has offered the following counterview.

If you are from the L.A. area and want a career in the film and television industry, there are some very compelling reasons to stay in Los Angeles for your film school education.  While movies and TV shows are shot all over the world it is here in Hollywood that the majority of them are conceived, written, cast, shot, edited and distributed.  If you want to make films in the United States Hollywood is still the place to be. 
Internships have become one of the key ways film students launch their careers.  At the school where I teach, Columbia College Hollywood, almost everyone takes at least one internship, most take two and many have been hired for their first industry jobs off their internship.  Film students from around the country fly themselves into L.A. and put themselves up at their own expense in order to get these internships.  If you go to film school in the L.A. area it is as easy as hopping in your car or taking the bus to your internship.  Moreover, after the internship ends, if they like you, they might call you in for a day of work here or there before they commit to hiring you full time. This is possible if you are a car ride away. It is not possible if you are an airplane ride away. 
Networking for your career starts in college.  The pool of people who can help you is largest and most accomplished in Los Angeles.  Not only do you have the opportunity to meet more people who can help you, but there are more opportunities that they can find for you here.  If you go to film school outside of L.A. any meaningful networking will start after college when you move back.  If you start that process while you are in college you’ll be up and running in your career sooner. 
When you are in film school you want your professors to be working professionals. You want them to know how the industry works today.  The pool of people who are working in the entertainment industry is much greater in L.A. than anywhere else in the country. You will get the best and most useful education and guidance here.  Film schools in the L.A. area have their pick from the best of the best to teach at their colleges. I know that at CCH we have files of impressive industry professionals who want to teach. I know it is the same at other L.A. area film schools.  People with that kind of experience are much harder to find outside of L.A. 
Another way people get jobs is through their teachers.  At CCH, since all the teachers are working professionals, we often hire students.  I am doing a series of 10 educations films over the next year and my entire crew, production and post-production, are CCH students or recent graduates. And I’m not the only one. Steve Haberman, who also teaches here, was just nominated for an Emmy for an HBO Special with Mel Brooks. He hired one CCH student to cut it and another to do the color. Other teachers do the same.  We don’t hire students to be nice or to help the school. We hire them because we recognize talent and we trust them.  The pool of industry professionals who can do this outside of L.A. is much, much smaller. 
Because there is so much production in Los Angeles there is an abundance of equipment here.  At CCH we own a lot of terrific equipment (including two Red cameras and Sony F3) but we can’t own everything we need. We can, however, borrow or rent what we don’t own because of the abundance of equipment in town.  35mm cameras from Panavision, 3D camera rigs, and other expensive or hard to find pieces of equipment easily acquired here.  They are not so easy to find outside of L.A. The same is true for facilities and services.  We have more sound stages, cranes, actors, special effects make up artists, fight coordinators – the list goes on and on. 
Traveling the world is a good thing. It changes your perspective and introduces you to new people and views of the world.  But it is not a wise choice to move elsewhere for your film education. You will just move back here eventually and need to start all over. Save your travel for vacations and out of town film jobs. Stay here, stay focused and use the opportunities that are right in front of you.

Bruce Postman is a teacher at Columbia College Hollywood in Tarzana, California. He can be reached at

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Leaving Hollywood: Sometimes We Have to Go "There" to Make it Here.

For more than 100 years, stars and starlets from the hinterlands – places such as Nebraska, Idaho, Pennsylvania and Canada – have trekked west to Hollywood, to find fame and fortune in the cinematic arts. Packed into their bags were hopes, dreams, dancing shoes, good hair, killer cheekbones and raw ambition. Something else that many brought was a perspective on life and people who live outside the world of movies and entertainment. Arguably, knowing who movie audiences are and how regular people live regular lives enriches how they write, produce, edit and star in films.

So if you grew up in LA, is there something you’re missing?

Perhaps. It’s hardly the case that the Los Angeles-raised individual is handicapped at making a career in film. The opportunities to train in the industry are here, with acting and film schools drawing people from around the world. It doesn’t hurt to have an uncle, and high school classmate or someone you caddy for at the golf course to be in the industry, someone who can help you get your own start.

But entertainment in general and the movie industry in specific exist outside of Hollywood. The sheer size of Bollywood and its audiences is the most obvious example. A Website,, the College Foundation of North Carolina, encourages young people in that state to observe how on-location shooting and digital technologies undermine the assumption that a film career needs to be developed in Southern California.

Another example is the New York Film Academy, which has campuses in both Los Angeles (at Universal Studios) and Manhattan, but also at Disney Studios near Orlando, in Europe (Florence and Paris), Asia (Kyoto, Shanghai and Beijing), South Asian (Mumbai and New Delhi), the Middle East (Abu Dhabi) and Australia (Queensland).

School administrators say that studying abroad reflects both the film industry’s hot spots and traditions. But just as important, it provides an opportunity for students to get that experience of going “outside themselves.”

While NYFA has its own LA film school campus – acknowledging that the majority of the industry’s base remains firmly ensconced on the West Coast – it encourages all students to rotate their studies from location to location, if at all possible. Yes, the Angeleno who takes a 3-, 4-, 8- or 12-week class in another city or another country will have to navigate the challenges of travel and housing, currency and language. But who doesn’t have to do that if they want to work on a world stage?

The experience of travel and relocation has an ability to strip a person down to his or her core, away from the social set they may have cultivated and the accomplishments that exist in their past. It was none other than D.H. Lawrence who said, “When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.”

Which is probably what Judy Garland (born in Minnesota), Brad Pitt (Oklahoma), Charlize Theron (South Africa) and perhaps even Zach Galifianakis (North Carolina) had in mind all along.