In Focus continues with our survey of Gauteng film schools in Part 2 of Should I go to Film School?
Is it necessary to go to a film school to become a successful filmmaker? How important is the knowledge of technology and film theory to getting into the business? Or is it better just to become a production assistant and move through the ranks? Our correspondents report on the many film schools active in Gauteng.
To read Part 1 of this article click here
The Motion Picture Academy at the TUT (soon to be known as the TUT Film School) offers courses in all the major disciplines including producing, sound design, script writing, cinematography, directing and editing with options to specialise in art directing, acting for camera, safety on set, making documentaries, commercials as well as music videos.
Morning classes for first and second years are usually theory-driven, while afternoon classes incorporate practical and/or film viewings. In the third year the course is more specialized, so third years can specialize in three of the major disciplines, while the fourth year specializes in only one discipline. Students have classes in that particular discipline on selected mornings and do experiential learning in the afternoons, where students work in the industry or on commissioned projects.
Several industry insiders like Franz Marx (writing), Donovan Fourie and Bruce Knoetze (editing), Barry Ronge (film analysis), Rob Wilson (cinematography), Heather Setzen and Hulette Pretorius (producing), Nic van Rensburg (documentary), Dirk Stoltz and Shareen Swart (acting for camera), and Helen Kuun (marketing) lecture senior students, while professor Allan Munro and professor Leon van Nierop, also Head of the MPA, lecture in Film Analysis. Many ex-students who are currently working in the industry also lecture at the Film School.
The Department of Education approved the Film School's new curriculum in which film literacy and film analysis play a major part. This is a compulsory subject and is divided into basic film analysis (1st year), advanced film analysis (2nd year), film as philosophy (3rd year) and genres and specific directors. South African and African film history and general film history are presented in the 1st year.
All students attend boot camps (one or two weeks per year) during which they are taken to a location outside Pretoria to film short projects in a certain time limit under supervision and with mentorship. The third years are also taught Film (as opposed to digital) one week per year in boot-camp style.
The third years are currently filming four commissioned productions for M-Net (short films of 24 minutes each) in addition to producing two films in collaboration with the Entertainment Technology Department. Previous students have won a number of awards including the M-Net Edit competitions.
TUT is one of the largest residential universities of technology in South Africa.
The school had a pass-rate of 98% in 2007 and the total number of students has increased from about 95 in 2005 to 148 in 2008. Many are already freelance in the industry and ex-students have found work overseas and at professional broadcasters, or have started their own companies.
Consulting Dynamix is a fully accredited MAPP-SETA ETQA and Department of Labour (DoL) training provider offering training and development, consulting and implementation. Based on an employer demand orientation, their service is entirely employment-based, creating an environment that activates, supports and infuses the learners with training, mentorship and personal growth.
Consulting Dynamix designs, implements and administers employment orientated training programmes based on the specific needs of stakeholders, employers, industry participants and learners who are seeking to gain deeper knowledge, understanding and insight into the specifics that have allowed their role models and mentors to attain such heights in their areas of expertise.
Consulting Dynamix provide:
- Training programme development to meet SAQA & MAPPP-SETA Compliance
- Skills Analysis and Audit and the design of accredited training programmes to meet these needs
- Baseline Assessments and Learning Interventions to address weaknesses
- Employer Support e.g. Training Contractual Obligations
- Learner Workplace Preparatory Training and Induction
- Mentorship and Coaching Development
- Learning Material Development
- Assessments - execution and design
- Training Audits, Impact Assessment and Quality Management
- Training Review
- Workplace Accreditation Consulting
Some of the initiatives that Consulting Dynamix is driving in 2008 include:
- External Moderator and Verifier for Nemisa
- Producer training for the Tshwane University of Technology Motion Picture Academy
- New Venture Creation and Business Operations for Media Business training for MAPPP SETA & Bedon Productions
- Production Assistant Training Programme for Hot Shots
Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking, is an award winning Film & TV School, (formerly the Film & TV Unit at Monash South Africa) which acts much like a social enterprise providing cutting edge, groundbreaking training interventions to address skills shortages in South Africa and giving talented young people, from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, access to training and employment in Film & Television.
The school was established five years ago to address capacity building at entry, intermediate and advanced levels in the industry. Dr. Melanie Chait, director of the school, said at the time, "In the industry we talk about new studios and new channels, and calls are repeatedly made on the Department of Trade and Industry to offer tax breaks to help finance feature films. All of this is important, but we need to build capacity not only in terms of studios but in terms of skills to make this a reality. If new channels are to be established, we need the people to run, manage, program, and schedule."
The Section 21, not-for-profit organisation, has achieved an outstanding 85% employment rate for former students now working in the industry. The remaining 15% are working on their own productions or through Little Pond, a production trust established by Big Fish for former students.
It is meeting industry needs by challenging the traditional methods of training to ensure high employability of previously disadvantaged learners at entry, intermediate and advanced levels.
The school and its various courses offer award-winning and internationally acclaimed industry professionals as tutors and mentors, weekly stipends paid for food and transport, as well as accommodation arranged for those participants coming from outside Gauteng, state-of-the-art HD camera equipment, a training studio, computer lab, editing lab and private edit suites with Apple offline edit facilities, and a training school that is situated in the hub of Johannesburg's film & TV industry, providing easy access for transport; to leading industry professionals; for work opportunities; and an environment that is inspiring and conducive to good learning.
This year they have a lot of courses on offer including,
- a 4-month Film Talent Incubator in collaboration with Multichoice - This is an intermediate training course for people with approximately 3 years experience in the industry. Connie Mosegedi says, "We aim to raise the bar on their existing work and introduce them to new disciplines. Our trainers are all top, award-winning, industry professionals e.g. Paul Raleigh, Catherine Muller, Karin Slater, Khalo Matobane, Sechaba Morojela, Chisanga Kisanga, and Tracy Clayton;
- an 8-month Filmmakers in Residency for the Department of Arts and Culture which will offer filmmakers a physical and mental space to develop their script ideas whilst being tutored and mentored by top industry professionals. Experts from allied disciplines such as visual arts, writing,
design etc. also participate as guest tutors;
- a 5-day Business Management short course for the SABC;
- a 5-day Script Editing course for Department of Arts and Culture.
They are also in the planning stages of several other 5-day short courses in Scriptwriting, Production, 3-camera directing and editing.
There is no cost for entry and intermediate levels as these courses are sponsored by their funders. Non-sponsored Masterclasses are charged dependent on the length and type of course.
The school has been such a success that in its short lifespan that it has established the Little Pond Production Trust for former students and other industry practitioners who require the use of an infrastructure, through which they can make their films. Little Pond provides a fully paid for "production office" environment which includes access to, and use of, state-of-the-art equipment, infrastructure and office facilities at highly reduced rates. The savings on equipment and infrastructure are re-directed into on-screen production value, and the quality assurance process with the mentors is achieved by using top leading professionals acting as executives.
By focusing on intensive training that is focused and professional at minimal costs - Big Fish is one of the best options for film training in Gauteng - it's more like an employment initiative than a film school - so results are virtually guaranteed.
The South African Scriptwriting Institute
3rd Floor, Newtown Building, 2 President Street, Newtown
Tel: 0861 SCRIPT (727478) / 011-838 4280/1/2/3
Fax: 011-834 9883
The Institute is the training arm of the South African Scriptwriters Union (SASWU), both of which were born out of the South African Scriptwriter's Association (SASWA) which thrived for over thirty years in the local film and TV industry. They aim to train scriptwriters across the film, television and radio spectrum as well as be custodians of the professional standards within the scriptwriting industry. Their target market is working scriptwriters at all levels, aspirant scriptwriters as well as the Producers for whom they work or could work.
As part of its mission statement the institute says, "We intend to play a role in building, strengthening and promoting South Africa's entertainment and cultural industries."
Their objectives include:
- taking basic script-writing training programs to all provinces and all our people
- Facilitate access for previously disadvantaged writers to the infrastructure necessary to accomplishing their craft
- Identify talent and up-skill working writers
- Provide expert training to encourage specialization and diversification
- Initiate consultation, discussion and policy-making regarding the contribution
of filmmaking, particularly storytelling and script writing, to our emerging democracy
- Promote the writing of scripts in the writer's first language and in their own cultural context
- Build a fund of intellectual property around training material that will always be owned by scriptwriters and accessible to all.
The Institute trades from the base of a registered Non-Profit Organisation with just under 300 members that are split into five categories. Novice and Cadet members are aspirant writers and working writers (members of SASWU) and are graded Bronze, Sliver and Gold according to experience. Currently it runs seven programs with funding from MAPPP SETA and 3 others funded by the National Lottery. The core of their skills strategy is a Level 5 "Fundamentals of Scriptwriting" course that was developed by SASWA over a number of years. They also have established 2 laboratories teaching Level 3 "Computer Skills for Scriptwriters" and are planning more courses all the time.
Their most exciting new training initiative is the Script Camp 'Lite' - based on their successful 'go-away-and-write-for-3-months' Script Camp. Funded by the National Lottery the main objective of the Script Camp is to get feature film scripts written to first draft stage.
The new Script Camp which is calling for submissions this month will run over six months (May to October) and writers will work from home. They will be assigned a script editor who will work with them individually and participants must attend one long-weekend workshop per month. Delivery deadlines are set individually and writers are paid a R30,000 option fee on their scripts divided up according to the deadlines.
Selection writers will be made a panel of expert screenwriters on an anonymous basis, selected on the strength of submission alone - but there are some criteria involved - Is the story set in South Africa? Is it interesting, have universal attraction and audience appeal? Does the story have cultural, educational or entertainment value? Is it original and is the copyright fully owned by the writer? Does the writer have the background, commitment and talent to benefit from the program? Could the story practically be made into a film on a reasonable budget? Does selecting the writer or script advance the aims of transformation within the film industry or South African society as a whole?
The closing date for entries is 17h00 on Friday April 18th.
For more information and an application form go to www.thescriptinstitute.org.za
If you have a story to tell or have your sights set on being a writer for film and television - the Institute should be your first port of call - it's run by writers and it's writers with real credits that you will be taught or mentored by. By setting itself up as a legalised Union with the Department of Labour they really have the story and the storyteller's rights at heart.