Posted by Terry on June 2, 2011

So you want to be a director. Does that mean tuition of $32,000 (or more) awaits you? Not necessarily, but let me digress for a moment.

Trevor Anderson is the Edmonton Writer/Producer/Director of The High Level Bridge which was in our festival a few short weeks ago.  It was also at Sundance and at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival).  It is his 8th short film and his previous films have also enjoyed success on the festival circuit.  So when I saw him at the Worldwide Short Film Festival in Toronto yesterday, I assumed he was here with a new film, but he’s not.  He paid $125 for a pass to the 4-day Symposium, the film industry forum of the WSFF. The price of the pass is small in comparison to the total cost of getting here from Edmonton and staying in a hotel, so when a filmmaker of Trevor’s stature considers it a worthwhile investment in professional development, that’s saying something.

I saw Trevor while we were waiting for the 90-minute Master Class in Directing Performance, the kick-off session of the Symposium that featured Kari Skogland, the director of FIFTY DEAD MEN WALKING, and Callum Keith Rennie, an actor who has worked with her on three projects and with many other directors on TV shows and films. Had I been in Trevor’s shoes, I would have counted my trip worthwhile just having attended this session.

There were so many nuggets of hard-earned wisdom from both Kari and Callum that I couldn’t possibly recount them all here, but what I found most interesting was Kari’s career path. She started in the business at the age of 18 because she just knew this is what she wanted to do. She started in post-production as an editor. Once she became adept at working with other directors’ footage (and what better training can there be to prepare you to shoot your own footage), the opportunity came along to direct music videos and commercials which taught her to really appreciate the value of 30 seconds, even the moment that can be found in 1 second.

Kari pointed out that, “Even if you go to school, you don’t come out a director. You come out a slave. You’ve got to work for somebody.” And then she talked about a young film school graduate who was a slave (i.e. production assistant) on a film. The crew liked working with him so much that they agreed to shoot a short for him.

You don’t need a film degree to be a production assistant. You need a brief (half day or so) workshop called Set Etiquette and Protocol offered by Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton.

Film school has its advantages, but it’s not the only way to learn how to become an award-winning director.

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