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FSU Film School (MFA)

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I am a current MFA student (2003-05) at FSU Film School and I must say attending this film program is probably one of the best decisions I have made. I entered the school with years of previous filmmaking experience, and I have learned more than I thought possible in my two years here. The MFA program demands one's utmost attention - you are not allowed to hold outside employment and you have little free time -- it is truly a 24/7 filmmaking experience. But unlike most MFA programs, you will graduate in 2 years, not 3, and will possess skills across the entire filmmaking spectrum.<br> <br> Your films are paid for, and I don't mean just the film and processing. Budgets include money for catering and production design, and all equipment is provided. The equipment room is well-stocked: Super jibs, a 30' Panther crane, Panther dollies, 6K, 4K, 2.5K, 1.2K &amp; 575 HMI's, extensive tungsten lighting, kino-flo's, flags and silks up to 20', and all the production support tools needed. We have 2 crystal-sync, truck-mounted generators for power, as well as a small fleet of box trucks. Cameras include Arri Super 16mm SR3's &amp; SR2's, and a 35mm BL 4, as well as Canon XL1's and a Steadicam rig. Unless you need something very special, you will not be renting anything out of house. You will inevitably be out some personal expenses, especially if casting out of town actors, but FSU is by far the best deal in film schools just by production standards alone.<br> <br> THE FIRST YEAR -<br> <br> Day one of the program is the beginning of an intensive workshop to introduce new students to all the various production departments. You will learn to run a generator and balance power, you will practice dolly gripping, learn the names of all the lights we use, you will practice loading film magazines and slating, etc. And what is phenomenal about the program is that this is taught by the 2nd year MFA's -- the entire school follows an apprenticeship program as students pass on their knowledge and experience to students coming up behind them.<br> <br> Classes the first semester cover all disciplines - directing, writing, production management, cinematography, sound, production design, acting. The professors are wonderful, knowledgeable teachers who really, really care about every student learning the material. And, unlike older reviews on this site, since Dean Frank Patterson came to the school, the faculty has been increasingly drawn from the industry (not past graduates). Just this year visual effects supervisor Stuart Roberson (Academy Award "What Dreams May Come") joined the faculty, and Rex Metz, ASC and Valerie Scoon (development at Harpo for 7 years) are also recent hires. Check out the website for current faculty: <a href=""></a> And it must be said that the director of the MFA program, Reb Braddock, is also an exceptional teacher, as well as the hard ass who keeps everyone in line!<br> <br> The middle of the first semester is dedicated to helping the 2nd years in below the line positions on their advanced directing projects. You rotate through every department on a film crew - 1st AD, 2nd AD, script supervisor, 2nd AC, sound mixer, boom op, best boy electric, key/dolly/or best boy grip, art director and assistant editor. This experience is invaluable and in six weeks you will have learned and grown more than you will have thought yourself capable of. We also follow slightly modified IATSE rules, so you are also learning professional etiquette and are not abused by overly long days.<br> <br> At the end of the semester, the 1st years shoot their Directing 1 projects, which have been developed over the semester. And these projects, like all FSU films, are fully crewed by your fellow classmates. Unlike other schools where you must hire outside professionals, by the end of your 1st semester everyone in the class is qualified to do almost any job on set. At the end of every semester, there is a public screening of the films shot and they are quite impressive considering the amount of sleep lost and the hectic schedule.<br> <br> The SPRING semester is dedicated to the 5 or 6 35mm thesis films going into production. 1st years interview with the producers, directors and DP's on the thesis teams for specific positions on these major productions. It is a fun semester where you can specialize more in departments you are interested in. The films have 10 to 12 day schedules and may be shot out of town, even out of state. During the SUMMER you go back into classes in preparation for your Directing II projects, which are shot and edited this semester as well. You not only direct a film, but you also serve as producer, DP, production designer, editor, sound designer, gaffer, camera op, and 1st AC on these films.<br> <br> SECOND YEAR<br> <br> Everything comes full circle as the semester begins with production workshops for the incoming students. Then it is off and running with the advance directing projects. This past semester we had 3 day shoots on Super 16mm Arri SR3's, which are the top S16 camera in use today. These cameras can ramp (Matrix-like speed effects), are high-speed, and are state of the art. At the end of semester, students form producing-directing teams in order to pitch for the coveted thesis directing spots. Story workshops are held with faculty to submit and refine the ideas, then business plans are written to support the team and the projects. Then the days of terror - the ideas must be pitched to the thesis committee. The process is nerve-wracking, especially because the competition is intense - you know how talented your classmates are. Four to 6 films are chosen forr production in the spring semester.<br> <br> Yes, it is not fair that everyone cannot direct a thesis film. This is the hardest, most painful realization in the entire two years. But Hollywood isn't going to greelight all the projects pitched out there as well - it is reality. Thesis allows you to specialize in other areas such as producing (these student actually get the most out of thesis - they see and control everything), DP'ing, designing or editing. FSU thesis films have probably one of the best track records of success of any school. In 2004 alone, they won 5 student television academy awards (emmys), more than any other school in history, 2 student academy awards, and were exhibited and honored at festivals around the globe.<br> <br> The SPRING is all about thesis production, while the last semester focuses on preparation to enter the industry and finishing up the thesis post-production. As of this year, every 2nd year student is flown to LA to participate in an FSU film school alumni conference and start making industry contacts. Students are also assigned an alumni mentor in their chosen field. The school encourages its students to head out to LA upon graduation and start carving out your place in the industry.<br> <br> IN CONCLUSION<br> <br> FSU Film School is not for everyone. If you don't want to bust your butt working 13 hour days in the pouring Florida rain in the middle of a muddy forest, don't apply. If you don't want to intensely bond with your fellow 23 production classmates and learn how to get along with everyone (at least on a professional level), don't apply. This school is all about getting down and dirty and learning through hands-on experience. It is about collaboration, because a film is not created by a single individual. No one gets a possessory credit here! ("A film by ----.") And the faculty is very involved in decisions - they act as the studio greenlighting films and setting strict schedules. It is not a school for those rebellious types wanting to do their own thing, or those interested in experimental, arty films - go to Cal Arts or NYU. You do not make documentaries here, nor music videos. You will make narrative films, concentrating on character development and clear storylines with superb technical merits. (I am speaking of the MFA program. The BFA program is different and does explore these genres.)<br> <br> If you want to graduate with an MFA knowing you could go out and immediately produce an indie feature or run a set as an AD, or script supervise or assistant edit, this is your school. Everyone wants to direct, and, yes, there are FSU grads out there directing, but the experiences and knowledge you come away with will benefit you no matter what path you take in the film industry. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS SCHOOL AND URGE ANYONE LOOKING AT MFA PROGRAMS TO TAKE A LOOK AT FSU.<br> <br> On a personal level, I was all set to attend another top MFA program (I had already sent in my acceptance letter), when I was invited to interview at FSU. I was hesitant and thought I probably would go to the other school. After touring the facilities and talking with the students, and having seen their thesis films on the festival circuit, I was overjoyed when the phone call came saying I had been accepted as one of 24 students. And I never looked back.<br> <br> - MFA student, class of 2005 <b>Review Submitted by:</b> <a href="">Anonymous</a> (unverified)