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Film School 101 – or What to Tell People When They Say Filmmaking Isn’t a Real Major

Industry News, Tips & Resources

By Matty Greene

When I first applied to college, I did not even consider filmmaking as a possible career choice. In high school, I focused on a lot of computer and engineering courses, originally applying to the University of Texas at Austin, based on its engineering program. However after a year of studying electrical engineering, I switched to Radio-Television-Film. I made a few short films in high school, and decided my true passions were in film. Also, I did not have to take as many calculus courses, which was a definite plus.

My lower division courses focused on film theory, history, and criticism, providing a solid foundation for the production classes I took later on. In my academic career, I studied a variety of subjects including screenwriting, animation, documentary filmmaking, and directing. I even took courses at the University of Texas’ branch in Los Angeles, and interned in Hollywood at Panavision and Hyde Park Entertainment. There is no better way to apply what you learn in class than experiencing “the biz” first hand, and UT provided the opportunity to do this.

During my senior year, I wrote and directed a short film called Broken Heart Boy for an advanced narrative class. The production was essentially my thesis and first dive into real independent filmmaking. My classmates took on different roles in the crew, such as Producer, DP, Editor, and Production Designer in order to help me make my film. Although fun, the experience was absolutely exhausting, taking a lot of blood, sweat and tears – more sweat than blood, thankfully. I definitely made a lot of mistakes too, including giving wrong driving directions to locations, and countless audio problems; but, without these mistakes I would not have the practical knowledge or experience I have now. After completing Broken Heart Boy, I entered it in several festivals where it eventually screened at SXSW and, of course, NFFTY.

The opportunities I experienced outside of school were as influential as my film classes. During the summer I worked at UT’s newspaper publication, The Daily Texan, as a photographer. I honed my cinematic eye and learned how to handle an assignment under a deadline. Equally as important was my time at the Texas Travesty, UT’s comedy newspaper and one of the largest collegiate humor publications in the nation. In the vein of The Onion, the Travesty parodied campus events, developing satire and comedy features on a monthly basis. Although I originally worked as a photographer for the Travesty, I tried out different positions such as writing, and even developed their growing web video department, TravestyTV.

Working for campus media was just as important as my film classes, because I got to apply what I learned in class with a real audience. At a campus with over 50,000 students, it was a unique opportunity to create content for a large following. Also, Austin itself is a great city to study in. Although not an industry heavyweight like Los Angeles or New York, Austin provides a lot of unique opportunities for filmmakers and lovers of cinema. We have a wide variety of theaters and specialty theaters like the Paramount and Alamo Drafthouse, each showing a variety of classic and cult films. Also, Austin is becoming a film festival Mecca with the Austin Film Festival and SXSW, as well as a variety of other smaller festivals.

Now that I am graduated from the University of Texas, I am working on a variety of projects related to my Radio-Television-Film degree. Currently, I am doing freelance work on various video projects for the University of Texas. It has given me a lot of freedom to make creative videos, and constantly challenges me to be resourceful and set my own goals to meet the demands of freelance work. Also, I have been developing a lot of other productions, including comedy videos. I have my own editing setup, and with the advancements in DSLR technology, I am finding it more convenient than ever to continue low budget filmmaking. In the near future, I plan on moving out to Los Angeles or New York. In the meantime, I am making the most of Austin and its wonderful film scene.

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