Film School@SCC Preps Students with Updated Skills, Reality Check
Students attending the Film School at Scottsdale Community College may come with visions of being the next Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese but the program emphasizes the discipline, skills and professionalism needed to make a living in the highly competitive film industry.
Led by residential and adjunct faculty with experience in the field, the film school offers students instruction rooted in industry standards and expectations, up-to-date technology and equipment, and a curriculum shaped to meet ever-changing workplace needs.
“Our job is to give them training and a realistic understanding of the industry so when the going gets difficult, they will have a practical vision of how to get over that mountain,” says Chris Jensen, the department’s faculty co-chair who directs the school’s Broadcast Production track.
In addition to Broadcast Production, the program has three other tracks students can pursue: Film Production, Screenwriting and Editing.
Film students seeking a two-year degree or completion certificate must take required courses, including the “Film Bootcamp” series of TCM 134, 135 and 136. Those five-week courses cover the basics of pre-production, production and post-production.
The school also accommodates students who are not seeking a degree or certificate but may be refreshing their skills or re-careering.
One way the school ensures its students are job ready is by keeping its equipment on par with industry standards. The school, which is based in three buildings on SCC’s main campus, has high-definition cameras, 90 editing bays, the latest software for editing and special effects, and two sound stages where film shoots are done.
“We’ve tried to train students on the type of equipment they would use in the field,” says Jensen. “We take a great deal of time to research equipment in the industry and wait for breakthroughs. We want equipment that is going to be around for awhile.”
The school also emphasizes the art of storytelling. In addition to the Screenwriting track, students are constantly reminded that all projects involve telling a story. “Even the driest industrial video should have some story to it,” said Shawn Mitchell, department co-chair and faculty member who leads the Editing track. “Otherwise, who’s going to watch it.”
To help students become more marketable, the school gives them opportunities to gain credits and experience. The film school sponsors two big film projects every academic year. These short film projects are competitively selected. If they are good enough, they are screened at the school’s annual Film Festival in May.
In addition, students produce film projects throughout the year. “We’d like to see our cameras in use 365 days a year,” says Mitchell. “Because that would mean students are learning.”
With a recovering economy, the industry job prospects have bounced back and that’s good news for film students, says Jensen.
“On a feature film, the production company might have 70 or 80 people working on it,” he says. “Our students are trained to be effective members of that company, whether it’s production, screenwriting or the grip and electric.”
His advice to students is to stay out of debt and plan on spending five years establishing themselves in the field.
An area that is providing more jobs is film and video projects for the Internet. Webisodes, webcasts and other creative video projects for the ‘Net is in demand from companies seeking to drive Internet traffic to their sites and products. “It’s a new expectation that graduates become a force in driving traffic in an online environment,” says Jensen.
Jessica Fossey, a film student in the broadcast track, says an internship she recently completed will help her reach her goal of working for a local TV station. While she’d like to become a technical director, she’s willing to do other jobs. And the classes have given her the skills she needs to be competitive.
“They’ve made it very hands-on,” she says of the program. “There hasn’t been a class yet that I didn’t enjoy and learn something.”