A Dose Of Filmmaking Education
There's no set formula for film production courses. Things are always changing. If there were a lot of people who knew everything, there wouldn't be so many companies that go in and out of financial trouble and so many movies that fail. Sequence, SMU teaches a course on film-maker survival.
"When I got out of Iowa, I did not even know where to rent equipment," Don Pasquella says. "I didn't know you could rent equipment. I didn't know how to do a budget. I could no more do a budget than I could fly out of this room. I knew (Russian film maker Sergei) Eisenstein backwards and forwards. I'd seen (Battleship) Potemkin 12 times, but I didn't know how much Kodak charged to process film." For a small school, SMU boasts an impressive list of well-placed graduates, including Dynasty producer Aaron Spelling and Bram Stoker's Dracula screenwriter Jim Hart. Paul Benz is editing with Oliver Stone on Heaven and Earth. And in Dallas, gaffer Murray Campbell and director of photography Bert Guthrie work constantly.
"We've been at a point where we had a certain level of staff and facilities based on a small number of students," Dr. Worland explains. "And it's hard to get more students unless your program is growing bigger. I think that's starting to happen." In the next few years, SMU will hire more people, he says. "And we're modernizing equipment and getting more facilities. The Greer Garson Theatre with the film archives is really going to help our teaching. That's going to kind of put us on the map."
At the University of North Texas' RTVF department, Chairman John B. Kuiper says the aim is to produce communicators -- "both in the art of film and video and in the discursive, rhetorical sense." A former newspaper photographer, Dr. Kuiper was film archivist at the Library of Congress and the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House before joining UNT. And faculty members say he runs a congenial, cooperative department. One of his biggest fans is production teacher Fred Watkins. When the veteran producer arrived at UNT, he says, the class as a whole worked on only one film. "Now we do six films with six directors and producers," he says. Plus this year, RTVF students get a bonus -- the chance to help make a full-length feature budgeted at $ 50,000.
It won't be the first feature on which RTVF students have toiled. Last year, Paramount Pictures' Necessary Roughness filmed on the UNT campus. About 50 RTVF students worked on the rowdy football comedy, and some watched their names roll in the credits. "Back in California, the producers told people how surprised they were at how much the students knew, how they were able to adapt and how hard they worked," says associate professor Ben Levin, an award-winning documentary maker.
But of course not everyone in film school aspires to make features. "In that sense, we're supplying people going into corporate video in the Dallas area,"Dr. Levin says. "Westcott (Communications) has been very aggressive about entertaining interns. Every semester, they come here and give a reception."