Feature Filmmaker

Ep. 61 - I Graduated Film School, Now What?

November 26, 2021 Anna Thalman
Feature Filmmaker
Ep. 61 - I Graduated Film School, Now What?
Show Notes Transcript

This week on the podcast, we answer questions from college students about how to prepare for a film career after school. We also share the most valuable lessons we learned in school and those that we had to discover on our own. Check it out.

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Hi, welcome to the podcast today. We have kind of a unique one to share with you. Yeah, we're going to talk a little bit about our post film school. Experience and sort of are. Film school experience leading up to that. This is in response to a friend of ours. Who's teaching at Brigham young university, which is our Alma mater, named Lindsay Kevin hound. And she's a producer and. Currently an instructor. At BYU and she's done a lot of work with her husband Willem. And, they're just really great peoples that we really love and admire, they have two, uh, boys and we, got an email from Lindsay. Just recently. Outlining a few questions that. She wanted us to answer for the sacred, for, outgoing film students, sometimes students that are kind of. They have some questions and concerns about, Post-graduation and everything, and we just thought. This would make a good podcast episode and a lot of our listeners we know, or, In film school or graduating from film school. Maybe you're not in film school, but I think all of these things might still apply to you. And you think about your future film career. So we're just going to go through those and answer them with each other. A little bit of background on what we're doing right now and our film career for those that are new or, or. Usually the podcast, or missing for the first time. We currently own a production company called invisible mansion pictures, and we make some commercial film. We are focusing mostly on feature filmmaking. We have a lot of projects in development and including a feature film that is. Wrapping up in post-production. And we also have, a few of other projects that are in script phase or other development phases. So yeah. Are the mission of our companies, twofold, which is. One to make the best films that we can and to, to help other filmmakers be able to make feature films. Especially people who feel like they are struggling. To balance feature filmmaking with a healthy, personal life or a family. People who are in similar situations to us. Where they have values, they want to maintain and they have. life they want to enjoy outside of their film career. And we help them to make the feature film and also have a great life. At the same thing. Yeah. Whatever that means. Great life. I mean, That's what that means for you. And so we, Yeah. I'll also mention that, on this last feature film I produced. There were three writers on the script, including Anna and myself and Brenda White. Who's an actor. Writer that we know who's really talented. Anna directed. And, I'm involved in the editorial phase, but I don't think I'm the lead editor. I don't think, I don't think that's been something that's kind of been an evolving thing just to naturally evolving and that's okay. But typically I think Ann and I both have a directorial careers that we have ahead of us. But we're, we're kind of multifaceted and sometimes Ana. Steps in an ADSL and sometimes I will do a lot of cinematography and editing. We're producing on this one. That's just to kind of give you an idea of what our skillsets are and what our background is as filmmakers. Yeah. And this first question actually was about what our emphasis was while we were in the film program and how that track or focus played a role in what we're doing now. I mean, it's easy for me because I knew I wanted to direct. Honestly, I think a lot of people. Go into film school thinking they want to direct. And then they try a lot of different disciplines and they might find one, they like more. So I think that's pretty common. But ultimately, I, I still. By the end, wanted to direct more than anything else. But I see, like, I, I really benefited from trying lots of different things. I didn't necessarily want to write, but now I like writing and directing. so your track was directing. Yeah. Yeah. I would say the same for myself. You know, I take an elective here and there, depending on whatever it is I wanted to learn. Like I took an avid class. It hasn't affected anything I'm doing now because I haven't touched it habits since I took the avid class. But, I applied some of those editing principles. You know, I worked jobs on campus and stuff. You know, you learn what you need to technically, but I mostly focused on directing classes. I think that was. I never liked declared a. An emphasis. I don't think you really have to, but that's. Yeah, I think we both mostly took directing. Focused stuff. Yeah. And it was pretty simple for us, but I still think. Whatever you study. It will bring an interesting, unique perspective to what you make, because some of the most interesting directors out there I think are those who have studied other disciplines and they bring that to their craft. Like. George Miller. George Miller. He was a medical doctor before he was a director. And then he made Lorenzo's oil, which is one of Dean Duncan's, fairer movies and some medical drama, but it's unlike one. And could have written and directed that movie. Yeah, it's really incredible. It was amazing. And then you get Terrence Malick. Who was he taught philosophy for 20 years. In the middle of his film career, like he's a hiatus. Yeah. No. There's lots of examples of people with incredible talents and skills that are unrelated to their. Acting, but then becomes very related to their acting or their directing or their writing or whatever. Does it act Viggo, Mortensen. Uh, poet songwriter. Polyglot multilingual person, like he's just. And that also, I feel like all that stuff comes out in his. Movies. It's kind of interesting how that works. You. I see everyone's style, Damien she's. I love jazz. And so he does these. Film's about. With lash, a jazz drummer. Jamie Fox and how to play piano. He got the role for Ray and the director didn't even know it. He didn't even know that he could play the piano before he got the role for Ray Charles. So, yeah, I would recommend following your interests. Yeah, take the classes that are interesting to you and don't feel like you have to tailor it all specifically in one. Direction. This is what Austin Kleon says in his book steal like an artist, which is incredible. Great read. It's really fast, but it's really good. And he says the common denominator is you. So do you have to curate your. Yeah, you don't have to say, this is my style. And I only do this thing. You just like everything that you like and you are what they all have in common. I think even stocker staffs and sharing that with me, it was one of my, professors. He, he taught me a ton and I feel like I took his documentary class, but I had no emphasis in documentary in the end. And I learned so much in that dark class. I loved that class and he even said, He's like, I kind of wish I hadn't like gone out there and said, I am a documentary and I don't do fiction at all. And he's like, I think I kind of. Limited some of the learning experiences I could have had. If I wouldn't have shoehorned myself, not that I think he regrets going into documentary, he's made super good films and he's a really good documentary. And, but I liked that advice where it's just like, stay open. Whatever. So, I mean, that's kind of what I feel like I've done. I've just. I just took the classes. I thought I needed. To take, to learn what I needed to learn, regardless of whatever the track was. So what are your plans for post-graduation going into your final semester? What were your plans? So for us, what were we planning? Post-graduation we were already married. We already had already parents who can, so when I graduated. Oh, you're right too. Yeah. When I graduated, I walked across the stage with. A baby in my arms and another one on the way. So that was pregnant. And we only graduated about the same time we've walked at the same time. Yes, we did. I have no one that was kind of still finish up. So we knew we wanted to go somewhere. Where films were being made. A little more so than where we got our degrees in Utah. So we were thinking, well, California. Or New York Kent mentioned that there was a lot of film in Georgia. And I started doing some research into Georgia because I'd never heard of that. So being a film hub, never heard of Georgia. What's Georgia. No, I just didn't realize it was a film habit at all. And then I researched it and realized that more of the highest grossing films are made in Georgia, then. LA or New York. And that's been the case since what? 2016. Yeah, I think so. Since the tax incentive has. Then the best one in the nation and they have a huge studio. Arizona's trying to top us now. Let's see what happens, but. Yeah, they have a huge studio. It's 15 minutes from our house where they shoot all the Marvel movies. And anyway we moved to Georgia. And that, that wasn't the plan. That was kind of the plan. We had a production company already. That was mostly shooting wedding videos at that time, as we were approaching graduation, we've transitioned out of that, but that was something we learned a lot from. And yeah, lots of practice. Yeah, we did lots of little commercials and. All kinds of fun things there. Yeah. So, how did you prepare for post-college? I guess we decided we were going to move to Georgia. And,, I don't know. I think we just, sometimes I think. At, especially that point in our lives, we were very like, I don't know, just close your eyes and jump. We'll just make movies somehow. Well, we knew we wanted to make movies. And we also knew we wanted to have a family. And. We didn't really know how to get there. We also needed to make money. Just to eat and pay rent. So. We just kind of tried to do all of those things at the same time. Yeah. And it's, it's been a ride. But, how do we prepare for that? I don't know. We went to film school. That's how we prepared. We made as much stuff as we could while we were in school. Hard to keep up with our assignments. And then we made a lot of stuff. on the side, like. IDP friends, video, like friends, short films. Yeah. You produced some stuff., we write stuff. We did do a short sell. We tried to pitch. at our school, they do a capstone project, which is a project that is. Funded and staffed by the school and they provide their resources and equipment. To make a short film and it's kind of a big deal. It's a good to make a capstone, which we were not selected to do. That we decided to go ahead and make. The short film we had pitched anyway. So that was something we did post college was get that put together. Pretty soon after we graduated within about six months after we really finally got everything wrapped up and we're graduated, we moved out to Georgia and then like six months after we got to Georgia. We flew back to Utah, shut that film because all of our film contacts were. In Utah, which I'll, I'll give it to Utah. We didn't want to stay there. But. We have so many film contexts in Utah still, and we've lived in Georgia farms for years, and I still think we have. Some of our tightest collaborators are still living in Utah, or we met them in Utah. They've moved to other places and. That is something really convenient. If you go to a local film school where you want to end up. Is that you make contacts where you're going to live and yeah. You stay close to them and that's been. Somewhat of a struggle. To start over again, once we moved out here and yeah. There's a new network of choice for us still feels right. But it's a good consideration to keep in mind. So, yeah. So. Here's the next question? What are the lessons you learned in school that impacted your post school life? The most. I think for me, I think I'll say a couple of things. One thing that jumps to mind is that BYU is film program is kind of unique because it's such a critical studies program. And a lot of students complained about that. Because they're all about, I need more hands on. I need more hands on. And I get that feeling because sometimes that creative monster just eats you alive inside, and you really want to make stuff. And I feel that way still sometimes. And I am making stuff. And it gets better. Because you do start making more things, but. Oh man. Looking back. That is what sets your education apart? You know, you'll talk to other people with, Even terminal degrees from other universities and they still, it feels like haven't seen. Very many movies and if they have seen lots of movies, they've seen a lot of the Hollywood. Sort of canonical Hollywood films, but they haven't really explored. Documentary and foreign films and films that are really old and really silent films. I'm like, what am I say? Really silent. I mean, like, Like, you know, just way, all the way back to like 18 95, 1919 15. You know, you haven't watched any like shoes, drum, they haven't watched hardly any Ozu they haven't watched. And I'm not like trying to dis on anybody. I'm just saying it helped me realize the value. Of that education, because I felt like the professors. Really dug into the history, really dug into the theory and that stuff. I mean as a writer director. Has profoundly impacted my work and my perspectives. And it's helped me realize that, Filmmaking is more than just the excellency of your execution. Of the medium. But also it has a lot to do with your perspectives on life itself, your perspectives, your thoughts. On. Relationships and humanity and. Spirituality and, you know, just whatever it is that these values that are deep in your life or in your heart. You make movies about those things and you can actually articulate it because you, you know, the great conversation and, you know, The language you haven't just watched lots of films or even shot lots of stuff and learned all the camera settings and done lots of editing, but you've. I don't know, you've kind of immersed yourself in the language and difficult conversations about that language and about life itself, you know, so. Sharon's theory classes that we took and history classes and. Those were all really valuable. So those are. I think the ones that impact my, the work I do as a writer. And, just any project that I decide to attach myself to and work on. Really that's tears. A lot of my decision making, I think, with some of that education. Yeah, I agree. That was one of the first things that came to my mind as well was just that. Even more than the technical training. I feel like I've benefited so much from the theory and history. Which when I learned that. Our particular film program was a critical studies program. And so it is not as focused on technical training and sometimes. I worried about that. The thing about technical training is that. It changes so frequently as new equipment comes out. And workflow. Changes the way that things are done. And so it's something you have to always be on top of anyway. But theory and history really opened my mind to how to speak this language. In a way that transcends whatever gear you're using. Right. And also to be aware of what's already been done and what's been said, and be inspired by. Like you said. Kent. Films from all different time periods and countries. We took. And enjoyed a German and Scandinavian film, class, French and Italian cinema. We've lost the old films. Just production documentary, but also historical documentary classes. Yeah. And we had some classes where we were given reading material from classic books and. Literature and other, other storytelling sources. Mediums. Yeah. Medium's yeah, that's the word? I also feel like we got some really good production and hands on experience at, towards the end of our. Phil experience or our school experience, which is really good for movies specifically, like narrative filmmaking. But even if we hadn't gone in there, which I think. I don't want to downplay any of those experiences. Once again, the value of those classes, wasn't just the technical sides of it. The value of those. We learned those technical things outside of school, that the value of those classes, once again, it was theoretical. It was, you had your getting hands-on the movie-making process, but it was. The ones again, you were still learning a language. It wasn't like, oh, what'd you say your ISO to what camera did you use? What was your budget? It was okay. What were you thinking about putting the camera here for, you know, it was still a theoretical conversation. I feel like, so. No, I think it was less valuable for the critical little technical things and more valuable. Because of. The process of just cranking out a ton of work and getting feedback on it and just having to make stuff and put it in front of people. And get the hard truth about all the ways you fell short and even feel that as you watch it yourself and when we were students at, we had a big group student meeting and I'll actually always remember that Willem camp and house said something that I remember. And he said, if the only work you're doing in school and the only app obligatory experience that you're getting is in school, like assignments. You're going to come out of film school, pretty unprepared. Like if you actually want to be like someone who can turn stuff around and make stuff. you're going to need to be doing stuff outside of your classwork anyway. So I know that right now with, with COVID and stuff, There's going to be a limit. I have friends at USC who were a lot of their project was getting shut down or delayed. And it was very hard to Get stuff off the ground, FIA the school, but If you're making stuff anyway, outside of school, either for paid clients or just passionate work. You can't really be stopped by any like COVID stuff. Luckily, at least right now, things are slowing down. But. Well, and we did that in several different ways. We set a goal at one point to make a film every single week. Even though we weren't getting paid for those. We just did a passion project. One. It wasn't even a film. The video. Just making videos. That's going rock climbing this weekend and it'll be neat and we'll make a sizzle. Yeah, we'll bring together. Canon T3. I, and. Whatever. And then we also were working at BYU, doing film editing for independent study. Which is announcing. Changing education they've dissolved that. Oh yeah, that's right. And we worked there with Lindsay camp and how. That's true. So we did that and we had our production company that we started and started doing really cheap wedding videos for our friends, as they got married. Yeah, starting at $50, I think was our first one. So all of that gave us a lot of chances to just practice and make tons of. Work. Not all good. Mostly bad, mostly bad. Absolutely. so what lessons do you wish you had learned in school? And what reality is if you come to face that you didn't feel prepared for. So those are kind of like a two phase question. Like what do you wish you'd learned and has that kind of bite you in the butt? I mean, we actually have a program. Kind of all about this. That's true. The film and family. Academy is designed to bridge a gap That I felt like I experienced, which was. I learned how to make things and we learned. Basically everything besides how to get a film financed and. Actually. Feature films. We can make short content and we can make some money. Even with short content. But we didn't know how to make a feature film and get something of that scale. Financed. And distributed and all of that. So. That's where the gap was. And we went out on our own. And got that education and it took a lot of. Hard trial and error. It took a lot of signing up for courses and mentorships. Getting lots of books, listening to some interesting podcasts at the time. Tons of money. And it was seven years after we graduated. No. Five years after we graduated before we made our features known for, I think. I mean, I graduated longer. I technically graduated in 2017. Those closer to 2016, you think. no. Yeah, he was about four or five years before we actually got to that point where we. We're able to make a feature film, even though that was the goal. Yeah, all along. Yeah. And like, you know, Short films. The school either funds it. If you're doing a capstone mostly or almost all the way. And,, you know, you can always get like a Kickstarter to fund the short film. But a feature Kickstarters cannot really get. Get enough money. I feel like for features. Uh maybe, and it's not the model we followed. You can do it. Lots of different ways. Yeah, like how to do that. It was a big gap, but I would just agree with everything you said and in terms of. That gap. On that note. Is that something you feel like you relate to, or that you experienced when you graduate? Or even now. It's not too. It's not too early to start. When you're in some school, a lot of great directors started. While they were still in film school. And some school when he made his first feature. Right. So it was a nighttime. Yeah. You have access to professors and resources that you just won't when you're done. So why wait. If you're able to. Yeah. Most of our professors won't talk to us anymore. I'm just kidding. Well, they're busy. And they have students than the other. The first priority. All right. Well, So if you feel like you relate to that, in the show notes, we'll include a link to our free checklist, which is basically what our program goes through. Step-by-step and you can download that for free and just. Use it to guide you as you go through your first feature film. so just want to make you aware of that. That's a good free resource. so what advice would you give to current students who may feel indecisive about their future path? It's an interesting question. I again, just would say, follow your passions. I know that might sound somewhat cliche, but follow your dreams. But. I had a lot of friends in college who didn't even know what they wanted to do at all for a living. And when they would just take classes for fun. To fill up their schedule. They would often find something that. They love to do in a way to make money doing it. And I think in film, You can do sort of the same thing. Just try whatever sounds fun to you. And play with it, experiment with it. You'll find something you love., yeah, some people might already know. They might have a specialty that they really want to focus on, or they might even just like, No, that they're going to direct. They're really passionate about that. But if you're someone who's got that big question, like a big gap in your mind, I usually stems from some, self-doubt not always, but sometimes it can stem from self doubt, like, oh, I can't provide for a family responsibly by making feature films or I can't directly use. Because, you know, no one starts directing. They have to do something else first, or I should. Maybe being a professor teaching or, or making, commercials or being a DP or an editor is a more responsible way. And I'm like, I don't know. Just whatever you feel like you've, you can put your best work into, even if that's. Writing or directing or acting or whatever, just. Do it. You're gonna have to pioneer some of your path because you're. Your path is going to be somewhat unique to you. So there's no getting around that no matter what you focus on. So well, and if you're trying to choose between a few specific paths, for example, like when we were deciding, should we live in LA New York or Georgia, we had kind of those three options. That we were considering the most. If you have some options like that, I would say pick the one, you like your reasons for the most. Just list out your reasons for each choice, each option. And pick the one you liked your reasons for the most, because sometimes our reasons are fear based like you were saying. And. Those aren't good. Reasons to make a decision because we're afraid. Yeah, you want to make a decision? That. Has strong reasons behind it. And of course, if you're religious, which we know that students from BYU. We went to school often are not always, but often. we have always been prayerful about our own decisions and that really helps us to feel. Like Sean is helping us and he guides our pads and helps us know what we can do and what's connect. Not be too hard on our family or on our. Wellbeing. Yeah. And then he won't necessarily tell us what to do, but he will hopefully tell us if we're going to do something really dumb. So we're going to stop. Ruin our lives or our careers. So. Yeah, I agree with that. And that's, that's been a help for me. For sure. I guess that's everything. Feel free to reach out to us. If you have more questions. And thanks for listening. Bye.