Joe McConnell’s Film School 101

One of my goals as a filmmaker is to eventually teach and pass on my knowledge; through my films, future classroom instruction & lectures etc. That being said, I’ve decided to make a fun little ‘Film School’ section on my blog. Film school is really expensive. Sometimes it is WELL WORTH the investment but other times students end up getting stuck in a crappy film school paying off enormous loans for the rest of their lives. So, if you don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for school and would like to gain knowledge through other means like Will Hunting did…I say GOOD FOR YOU!!!

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I’m not saying I’m the most experienced and cultured filmmaker in the world….far from it. I’m no J.J Abrams, but I do have information to offer…..and it’s FREE!! Whether you’re a beginner looking to get into the world of film, an intermediate looking to change departments and learn some new stuff or a master who’s just looking to identify with another filmmaker OR maybe you’re looking for some Schadenfreude…..either way, enjoy.

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So you want to get into Film & Television? Great!! Now take a deep breath and be realistic. You’re not going to step out of the gate and become Steven Spielberg right away unless Steven Spielberg is your dad…. OR if you have a leg up on the competition due to some serious nepotism. Even if you DO have great connections that can give you a high position right away, you’ll eventually flounder that opportunity and just be seen as a rich trust fund kid unless you’re dedicated, hardworking and talented. Note how I put those in order. DEDICATED, HARDWORKING and TALENTED. Lots of people in the industry might not have talent right away, whether they are a PA, Actor, UPM etc. but man are they dedicated and hardworking (easy to work with is encompassed in those two definitions and you’ll eventually understand why if you work on enough films). It’s much easier to re-hire someone when you know they’ll show up on time. Sure, maybe they’ll make a mistake or two….but mistakes in the film industry are very common. It’s better to have someone who LOVES to go to work rather than someone who is super talented but a pain in the ass.

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Next…… it’s all about networking so that means you will need to become sociable. Maybe you’re an asshole. Maybe you’re shy. Maybe you have a horrible stutter when you speak. But now that you’re in film you’ll need to work on your personality, you’ll need to be friendly, you’ll need to get peoples contact information and you’ll need to keep in touch with people. It’s not hard. Social media is very helpful. Just send a Christmas E-card letting your friends and colleagues know, ‘Hey! I’m alive’. Maybe you don’t even need a job….but it’s good to keep in touch because as many people as there are in the industry……it’s a very small business. I guarantee you’ll run into colleagues on film sets across the country and possibly the globe. One of your contacts may eventually recommend you for something or get you a job. You never know. And if you do know that a ‘certain someone’ is a complete fool and bad connection to have….well then….you’ll know what to do.

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See that last picture? No he’s not just the salad dressing guy!!! That’s Paul Newman. PAUL MOTHER F***IN’ NEWMAN. He was an amazing actor/director who was nominated for several academy awards, won one, and starred in films such as Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), The Sting (1973) and my personal favorite Nobody’s Fool (1994). Have I seen all of his films? No. But I’ve seen a lot of them…..several times over. Why? Because I love film….no, I LOOOOOVEEE FILM. And if you’re going to successfully become a student and/or work in the business it would help if you educated yourself. Orson Welles, Jimmy Stewart, Buster Keaton, James Cagney, Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, Richard Attenborough, Sergio Leone, Tom Cruise, Steve McQueen, the black AND the white one,…..the list goes on and on. WHY AM I USING CAPS, CURSING AND USING EXCLAMATIONS!!!??!!!………….I’ll tell you why….

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….it’s because you need to prepare to get YELLED AT. There are assholes in the film/tv industry. In the real world we call them Sociopaths, formerly known as Psychopaths. Yes, they’re in the film industry too. Most of them in the world are because it’s very easy to use and abuse people in this business. Sure, there are some really cool people….but you’re bound to run into some flaming douches. Let them yell. Take it in stride. Don’t get pissy. Let it go and do your job. It’s just like if your girlfriend is venting to you after a long day of work…..it’ll eventually end and she’ll go back to normal. If the person doing the yelling is in the wrong, eventually others will see it and slowly but surely said ‘nutcase’ will stop working in the industry OR you’ll get other jobs and stop working around them. Sometimes good people get shit-canned and bullied in the wonderful world of tv/film by these Sociopaths so watch your back. Keep records. Use your head just as you would in your normal life. Sounds fun right???

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I’ll stop the first lesson here….and I’m not going to make a numbered list reexamining what we’ve just learned. The info is there…use it as you will. We’ve got A LOT!!!!! more ground to cover in the future so start studying. I hope this M.A.V.B.L.O.G. has helped in your pursuit of and/or knowledge of the film business. As always. Have a great day! Be good to yourself and be good to others….especially animals.