Saturday, June 28, 2014

The One – Part II

Recap - Quick cuts and thriller music as shots of me looking at webpages in dim light, meeting people in dark glasses and low hats, suspicious expressions.. zoom into my eye as I walk out of one institute, zoom out to show me standing outside new location..
Well so you’re up to speed as to what I was doing, (if not take a minute and read the earlier blog, well ok maybe 5 minutes I tend to ramble) So I found myself on day 10 of my search looking for Inst no. 2. Frankly I passed it a couple of times but really didn't imagine a decrepit building like that could house an institute..(Have I mentioned I'm quite shallow?).. I finally realized that I had to go into the building, so holding my breath I walked in. I know creativity can sprout anywhere but really for me, dark, dingy and shady don't go with flow of creative juices. I mean how exactly to come up with an earth shattering idea when half your mind is focused on where the nearest exit is in case the building decides its had enough of standing up. I finally got what all those real estate people say about 'location location location'.
At another institute with a very similar look, I tried my best not to be swayed by the 'site' of the place and make my decision, but the counsellor there did the job for me. I mentioned my interest and showed him some of the things I had created. He listened quite attentively then a little too assertively told me I was making a big mistake. How filmmaking wasn't the right choice for me and that I should get into the VFX course they had. I mean I'm interested in VFX but as a part of filmmaking. Tried to tell him that, but he got so aggressive I started to agree with him only so he wouldn't go all 3rd degree on me. He hard-sold the VFX course and the more he pushed the more I knew I didn't want this. 
A big thing I noticed at almost all the places that I had been so far was that the students seemed to be standing by, while all the hands-on work was being done either by the faculty or the assistants. Almost no where did I see students fiddling with cameras or lights or really participating and learning. Until that is, I came to FX School – violins playing.
My meeting with FX School as a place was like a dream sequence. I opened the glass door and I heard the words 'Action'.. I looked up and was partially blinded by the lights, pin drop silence and then by a girl slapping a guy. I stopped in my tracks in shock and was almost going to retreat not sure if I had just walked into the wrong place and this was some movie shoot going on. Two seconds of shock later I realized that all the people involved in the shoot looked like students. Someone yelled 'Cut' and it was like the sound had been turned back on. I was still reeling with shock before I picked up that there were other people around me and someone was very politely asking me if I needed to see a counsellor. Oh yeah I did.. and also what the hell was happening.
The counsellor invited me into a room and explained that a student shoot was in progress. Wow! so all those were kids studying here. There were two Teaching Assistants but it was the students who had to set up the lights, choose the camera, the lenses and decide what was the best way to get that shot they wanted. I almost signed the dotted line without hearing anything more. So much hands on exposure!! I showed her my work and she said that I seemed to have a really good hand with the camera so maybe in Filmmaking I should specialize in the camera department. She even set me up to speak with a student who was currently doing the course there. The faculty I met had some great movies to their credit but still seemed extremly down to earth and approachable. I felt like things here were completely  transparent, no hidden agendas about pushing me to take a different course and most importantly all that hands-on experience. Also, they had a sweet Mac based setup all through with tons of high end cameras and lenses. But I didn't just jump on the wagon here. I gave the last Institue I had in mind a shot.
Now I must say even the last place pretty much rocked for me. It was huge, one of the few places that looked like a campus; they had an awesome setup with equipment and some pretty big names linked to them. So looking through rose tinted glasses it seemed even better than FX School. Only I dug deep, so I soon realized, when I was being given the tour, that though they had the latest equipment and some pretty informed faculty and a really swanky setup (they had the most intense security I had seen, really felt like Bond before entering M's lab) the kids here too seemed to be standing around while all the pros handled the cameras. The only time I saw students use the equipment was a class that was in their final leg of the course. So a newbie was just supposed to absorb and learn from.. looking. Hmm.. Looking vs. Hands on.. I pretty much ran all the way back to FX School.
Now I know your thinking of course you'l say great things about FX School, you study there. So here's a challenge, be as thorough as me and actually go try and find a better institute. Do what I did and let me know if you had a different experience. I know I'd love to hear it.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The One – Part I


Here’s a riddle… What’s Red and Brown and goes round and round. That would be me, two years ago, walking in the sun looking for the right institute. Color fades to grey and slow music starts, as we flashback – Two and some years ago I was a not-so-enthu engineering student struggling through my second year in said field. I took up engineering frankly because my Parents said I should. Afraid to be cut out of the will, I begrudgingly accepted and found myself less-then excited about what I was doing. Until – music tempo picks up and color starts to add into scene - I picked up a camera to shoot a video for my college fest. It was a huge hit; I got accolades, You’re-The-Man thumbs up signs, got called to the Princi’s office to be praised (He looked as shocked at what he was doing as I was at receiving the praise) and all the jazz that goes with finding out that you have a purpose in life.

When I took a break from engineering to pursue Filmmaking - slow-motion shots of parents and me screaming, crying, lots of walking out shots with sheets of paper flying in the air – I found out quickly enough that just pure talent could get you only so far. I needed a formal education to back me up. Here began - energetic the heat-is-on music starts- the hunt for the perfect institute.

Now, it’s important to know that I am not one of those who jumps at the first train that pulls into the station type of person - tires braking hard sound. I plan, I research, I plot, I wear my James Bond sunglasses – plagiarized Bond music in Background - before I zero in on anything. So before I set out of my house I first visited all the websites and facebook pages of all the known, and some unknown, institutes that I heard had a filmmaking course.

Step 1 - if the website and facebook page doesn’t dazzle you into staying on it for more than 5 min you know you got a problem. So my first round of elimination was based purely on me reading the book by its cover. One institute explicitly mentioned they didn't offer any placement guarantees, right there on the front page. Just the thing a person trying to enter into the field wants to hear – Heavy Sarcasm laugh – I didn't go beyond their About Us page. A couple of websites looked like tax return pages - pin drop silence with the occasional mosquito sound breaking in - dull and boring. Some websites had so much fine print about their course I started feeling quite suspicious about what they were going to make me sign – Doctor Evil Smile. And finally, if an institute talking about filmmaking didn’t have any videos on, well that for me was a deal breaker right there.

Step 2 – Calling. After my first round of elimination was done, I called up the top 5 places on my list to ask them when and who I could talk to regarding my course inquiry. All of them passed with flying colors here, as very sweet and helpful receptionist - La La La type music with lot of beautiful long hair flying in the wind shots - took down my details and set me up to come meet their respective counselors.

Step 3 – The Meeting. Inst. 1 – Name and Identity hidden for.. well, cause I can.. I met up with the counsellor at the door. She very formally welcomed me and asked me to read through the prospectus on the course I would plan to choose. After spending a good 15 minutes reading the prospectus cover to cover, I was still unsure how this place could help me. So I asked the counsellor. Very patiently she asked me to sit, took the prospectus from my hand and proceeded to read it out to me. Word for word. Now considering that I think of myself as quite the avid reader and someone who generally understands what I read I interrupted her to say that I had gone through the course but how was this institute better then the next. She cut me off with a look that said, “I'm reading here.” After she finished I asked her, for the third time, why should I choose you guys. She gave me a new, oh-your-one-of-those-smart-ones-are-you look and handed back the prospectus saying this explains it all and if I wanted I could walk around the institute and see how it 'felt’ different. Well it didn't so I left. 1 down 4 to go.

Since I'm not one to cut a long story short, catch this space for the second part of 'The One – Hunt for the Right Institute' – credits roll.