Friday, June 12, 2009

Campfire pretension

Wednesday night, while I slowly sank in my queen sized air mattress inside tent city's greatest mansion in front of the school where I teach, I finally decided to give up sleep and listen to the conversation the loud obese guy was having with the quiet obese guy. I'm pretty sure actually trying to hear this conversation is what finally knocked me out, but before I dropped off to my full two hours of sleep I heard something interesting.

Quiet Guy: Let's talk movies. Star Trek was a good film.
Quiet Guy: Oh but it was good for all the wrong reasons. Mumble mumble mumble and that's why people went to see it.
Loud Guy: Oh....
Quiet Guy: If there's a movie I like to talk about it's Ikiru. I mean, mumble mumble Kurusawa films mumble mumble.
Loud Guy: Oh yeah. okay.
Quiet Guy: And there's this film called Cinema Paradiso....

(This is where I said to myself, "Okay buddy, we all now know you went to film school. Congratulations.")

Loud Guy: Oh really?
Quiet Guy: Oh yeah. And mumble mumble Harold and Maude.
Loud Guy. yeah....
Quiet Guy: Did you see A Beautiful Mind? That movie was really controversial because of the racist mumble mumble. You know, my professor directed that movie.
Loud Guy: Really?
Quiet Guy: Oh yeah. He....

So this seems to be where I fell asleep, right after I got confirmation of my hypothesis that this guy went to film school.

The whole time they were talking I wanted desperately to leap out of my tent and yell "I love Pitch Black because Vin Diesel is a shiny-eyed badass who kills man-eating aliens who did not know who they were fucking with!" and then jump back into my tent. But I did not want to do this as desperately as I wanted to go to sleep.

Seriously. Nobody starts a conversation over a camp fire explaining why Star Trek is good because it's not good, and then segues into Kurusawa, Cinema Paradiso, and Harold and Maude except a frustrated film school grad.


  1. haha. I've seen all three moves (although just only one film by Kurosawa) and I haven't seen Harold and Maude... yet.

  2. Film school students are so funny.

    They pay tens of thousands of dollars to learn stuff that you can learn yourself with two or three grand and a few months of time.

    Out of all the people I've worked with on set (and all of the people I've talked to about it) film school students we're universally the worst -- both as crew members and as directors/producers.

    For whatever reason, they work slower, they need more takes, and they're indecisive. I think too much theory screws with their head and they don't know how to simplify it.

    However, the film school students were usually the most knowledgable about older films, so they've got that going for them. Unfortunately they all have this overwhelming desire to show it off.

    As Terry said: In theory, practice and theory are the same. But in practice, they're different.

  3. I love conversations with "show off film students". You can easily put them off. They don't know much more. They just know older movies.

    Their only weapon is they can say "I saw Battleship Potemkin" or "M" or "Metropolis" where you can't argue with because you haven't seen it. If you say I've seen "The Cooler" and they haven't, they don't seem to see that as an argument even tho they use it for their own "seen" movies.

    That's why I always go into the process of making a good film. There it doesn't count what date the movie was made. It only counts the execution.

    I can't imagine someone to dislike Die Hard in its execution. It has everything the movie promises and even more. Only ones who can't like Die Hard are the future generations who have seen too many copies or ripoffs. That's why it is sometimes hardly to understand certain people praising older movies I've seen a thousand times in ripoffs that are sometimes even better.

    They were good for that time. But nowadays it's boring. I've seen "Battleship Potemkin" and "M" and I can say Potemkin is only famous for the Odessa Steps scene which Brian DePalma made it genius in The Untouchables (before it was only a landmark scene, which was never done before that time). "M" was great for the performance of Peter Lorre and its influence to the upcoming Film Noir stress. Otherwise every other great director can do this movie with the right people.

    I've never seen Metropolis... and I will only see it for educational purposes. For entertainment... I've no idea if it will entertain me more than the new StarTrek movie... most propably less... and some of my favourite movies include Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Dr. Strangelove etc.

    Some movies are education and some are timeless classics... that has to be differentiated.

  4. I can breathe a sigh of relief that I'll never be one of those people. Not because I'm particularly humble or (the more appropriate reason) because I don't have anything to brag about, but because I can never remember movies in detail enough to pontificate on them. I always felt out of league with my film undergrad (does that make a difference? Am I in less danger of pompousness because it wasn't a real "film school?") when they would discuss movies. If I haven't seen it twice, it's mostly just a blur. And there are some "classics" that I just can't sit through more than once, no matter how much it'll raise my film cred.

    As for theory, it definitely doesn't do anything to improve your working knowledge of how a film is made. But I think it is important in the fact that it helps a filmmaker refine their vision of what film as a medium is about. But no matter how much I enjoyed theory classes, the ratio of academic classes to production classes is always unbalanced, I think.

  5. Film School DBag7:44 AM

    I think your (post and comments) logic is incredibly faulty here. Some guy around a campfire or on a filmset is a douchebag and he went to film school, so it must be that filmschool equals pretentious douchebag?

    I don't even necessarily buy that he is a douchebag or pretentious based on your description. Because some guy sees a bunch of movies that are supposed to be great, and he tries to apply that knowledge, he's a douchebag? You condemn him for making references to all of these pretentious films, and condemn him because you assume that he skipped Pitch Black (script by David Twohy, Cal State Long Beach Film alumni). But, and maybe I'm missing it here, what's so wrong about seeing great movies throughout history? Here's one for you: what do JJ Abrams Alex Kurtsman, and Roberto Orci have in common? Film school. So it might not be out of line for someone to see some corollaries to 'pretentious' film school movies, given that most of the people involved are film school brats.

    You're judging his taste in movies based on your assumption that he is judging your taste in movies. Maybe he likes Pitch Black as well, but because you had a bad experience in the past with someone from film school or because you're worried about your lack of film knowledge, you are ready to throw him into the campfire for daring to mention films that he enjoyed that fall into your category of snobby. That just comes off as needlessly over-defensive. As to the comments, maybe if you're defensive and judgmental on set, it might answer your question as to why film school kids don't work well with you.

    Armchair screenwriters are always quick to mention Diablo Cody-esque stories of the outsider breaking in. She and the many other successful non film school writers and directors are talented and every bit deserving of their success. But I guess John August, Michael Arndt, Dustin Lance Black, Callie Khouri, etc. must all be the rare occurrence of the film school graduate who turns into a successful, talented (presumably non-douchey) screenwriter. There are plenty of non-working film school graduates, without a doubt, but I am willing to bet that the percentage of people actually working as writers or directors who went to film school is significantly higher than non-film grads.

    Let me tell you about film school. You get 2-4 years of being surrounded by people who love film and are ready take it seriously as a career. You get to meet people who will help you get jobs out of school, and will always be ready to lend a hand on whatever you are working on. You get to meet people who have made great films and listen to them tell you how they made them and how you can makes yours better. You get your foot in the door at any number of production companies that will only hire interns and readers with film school experience.

    Film school is also a major gamble. An executive once told me that, when it came to people he worked with, the nuts and bolts film school experience wasn't necessarily as important to him as the fact that these people were ready to make a clear level of commitment to pursuing film as a part of their life, as opposed to going for a teaching or law degree and pursuing film as an 'after work' sort of hobby. In my day to day life, I don't really care if the people I work with are film school graduates or not, but I'm sorry that you all don't feel that same way. I worked my ass of in film school and beyond to become a full-time working screenwriter, and I love nothing more than talking movies with all types of people and getting talented people work. I know a lot or film school and non-film school people who feel the same way, so just make sure that your views of film school kids aren't keeping you from making the kind of connections that might actually help your career or expose you to great movies.

  6. Film School DBag you are reading a lot into my post. First, I never said he was a douchebag, just that he was being pretentious.

    There's nothing wrong with going to film school. I have plenty of friends who did and I admire their knowledge. What I don't like is people who can only talk about what their professors taught them, and they want to make sure everybody know they've seen and understand those films. This man was one of those people.

    If you are one of those people, then yes, you are pretentious.

  7. Here, in my opinion, is where the divide occurs between film school and non film school.

    The people who don't go to film school are weeded out within one week of being on set. You learn very very quickly whether you want the job or not. It's a difficult job with long hours, it can be simultaneously hectic, boring, loud, quiet, and any other contradiction that you can think of.

    Film school has the same weeding out process, but it takes longer. A year, maybe two.

    Notice in my post I said film school *STUDENTS*, not film school *GRADUATES*.

    To do it for three to four years, you have to want to be there. To do it for one or two, not necessarily. Lots of people start out in one discipline before deciding on another. Almost every friend I had who had post-secondary education switched careers after the first year.

    The graduates I've worked with have been fine, no better or worse than the people who've been working on set. The best director I've worked with is a graduate (albeit of a technical college). So are the three worst. Though, keep in mind I've worked with far more bad directors than good.

    The first or second year students I've worked with (with one or two exceptions) have been horrible. They're eager and excited for the first two hours, but the next ten it's like they lose all of their energy. They stop caring after the novelty wears off.

    I still think film school is unbelievably overpriced (the big ones anyway) for what you're getting. Though if you have the cash, may as well.

    Ultimately, I don't think it's going to make a huge difference. If a person is going to succeed in this industry, if they want it bad enough, they're going to do it with or without film school.

  8. I'm with film school Dbag on this one. The logic in the original post is faulty.

  9. So Matt, you've never heard of a guy who makes sure everyone knows he went to film school? You don't know a single person who likes to talk about high minded films just so they can show off what they know?

    The guy on the other end of the conversation wasn't really interested in talking about film. This was a one-sided conversation from a guy who was trying to show off.

    I like to talk film too. So do all of us. But there's a difference between talking about films and making sure everyone around you knows how vastly superior your knowledge of film is.

  10. I've seen Cinema Paradiso. Good little film, but it didn't have spaceships and planets being sucked into black holes, so it's obviously not as good as Star Trek.

    I should teach film school.

  11. If the guy had figured out a way to thematically connect Kurosawa and Cinema Paradiso with Harold and KUMAR, then that would've been kinda cool.


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