For the aspiring filmmaker film school is a joy. Not only does it serve to give you the rudimentary skill set you will need, but also it serves to mold your passion and give you the momentum once leaving school, to produce work that is fresh and new. There are several schools in this country that have outstanding reputations.

Of course California is going to produce more film schools than you can shake a stick at, with New York a close second, but there are plenty of film school opportunities in other parts of the country. I will discuss some of the heavies first as they are the "Pie in the Sky" for many aspiring filmmakers. The premiere school to go to would of course be the AFI conservatory. Founded in 1967, they provide 6 areas of course study: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design, and Screenwriting. AFI is particularly devoted to traditional narrative film.

California Institute for the Arts (Cal Arts), was created in 1961 by Disney in 1961, with an emphasis on animation. San Francisco State University has a film program, also created in the 60's amid the political expansiveness of that time and their course work is heavily influenced buy experimental film. Then there is always UCLA Film School and USC as well.

In New York you have Columbia University School of the Arts and NYU. Both have heavy rosters of Directors and Film writers that have come up in the ranks at these schools. I think of Spike Lee when I think of NYU.

These are the most famous of them all, the 'A' list, and to get into these schools is practically a miracle from god, but if you do, you just scored Willy's Golden Ticket. If you find yourself to be one of the many that are outside the golden gates looking at all the happy film students, do not despair. There are plenty of other film schools around the country that have great programs where you can get the skills and training you need.

There are some things that you must consider when picking a school off of the 'B' list. How much is the education going to cost? That is the bottom line, because if you get loans to get into school, you better be able to make those loan payments 6 months after graduation. To that end the next consideration is what kind of internships do they offer. See if you can have a conversation with the senior students in the film program so that you have an idea of what is in store for you once you leave school. Who else has graduated from this school that is noteworthy?

Film School is that wonderful island in the middle of an otherwise uphill battle. The equipment loan programs in themselves are worth the price of admission. Here you will have the opportunity to use cameras, recording, and editing equipment along with edit bays and sound studios. There will be a pool of actors and crew to draw from as you each help crew for each other. For this one brief time you have the benefit of all this. Once on the other side, however, you are on your own.

The Pacific Northwest has several film schools. University of Washington has an excellent film school. The Evergreen State University is notorious for their liberal/alternative education. Some take issue with the fact that there are no grades. Instead there is an evaluation system in place where the student and teacher write evaluations of themselves, the teacher, and the program. Greeners, as they are called, pride themselves in critical thinking and their program, MediaWorks, has provided the film community with radical, cutting edge filmmakers.

Whatever school you decide to attend, enjoy it while it lasts. It will be the one place you can experiment and have the support you need to get your projects done. Plan on sleeping very little and learn to love pizza and Top Ramen.


Being a location scout would seem to be the most fun out of all the jobs offered in the filmmaking industry. It seems that it would be a dream vacation to travel and see if a location checks out or not. Believe it or not, headaches abound in securing a location to shoot.

There are many more details involved in securing a location to shoot a film than simply finding the location. There are permission and releases to be obtained from everyone involved. Proof of liability insurance and authorizations of access to the location may need to be obtained. The scout will convince the owner that having a 150 person crew camped out on their front lawn it going to be good fun.

Previously it might have pacified the local authorities if you gave them some small compensation, like a good bottle of whiskey, but these arrangements are no longer available. Now you must have official permission from the local authorities to use certain locations for filming. These releases must be paid for and put on file so that they can be accessed during the shoot. Once the location scout has secured the location they become the location manager. This means they are responsible for parking access and accommodations for he cast and crew.

Sometimes unusual arrangements are made in order to use a location. Stephen King's "Rose Red" was filmed at Thornwood castle in Lakewood, Washington. This castle was brought over from Europe, brick by brick, and rebuilt on the shore of American Lake by Chester Thorne. Chester Thorne was one of the founders of the Port of Tacoma. Initially while it was a good location, the castle needed to be returned to its old grandeur. The production and location managers struck a deal to refurbish the castle.

The result was that almost $800.000 of renovations were preformed on the castle. The restoration work done to the castle can be seen at Thornewood castle's website. The work done was in exchange for the use of the location once it was finished. The owners of the castle in exchange for the use of the location received $800,000 in renovations. I am sure they thought it was good deal. This case exemplifies the lengths to which producers will go to in order to secure a good location.

Location scouting was previously done at a time when the digital technology was not available to the location scout. Scouts were required to travel to the actual location and they usually ended up using Polaroid shots for their reference. Now there are location agencies that can give you virtual tours of locations and the scouting can truly be done online. All you need to do is put in a request for locations on the Internet and you will find scads of listings for location scouting agencies.

Now for those of you that are producing your own independent films, you will have to use your wits to secure your locations. If you are using your own house or apartment it will be no problem but if you are using a location that doesn't have general public access you will need to secure releases from the owners of the facilities you want to use.