3 Movies That Show How Students in Film School Can Use Natural Light

Posted on December 22nd, 2016 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

Want your work at film school to have an interesting look

One of the main benefits of lighting equipment is that it can allow film production to go on at any time of day, and in many environments. Without lights, it can be difficult to get good footage in low-light conditions.

Still, there are some films that forego lighting equipment in favour of the illumination offered by natural light sources. Done well, this approach to lighting can be used to create a sense of realism in the picture, and helps create striking visuals that would be more difficult to achieve with traditional lighting systems.

Want a little inspiration? Here are three movies that used natural light to great effect.

1. Children of Men Exemplifies Gritty Naturalism for Students in Film Production Programs

In Children of Men, which takes place in a world where no children have been born for over 18 years, a man and pregnant woman attempt to flee multiple warring factions bent on their capture. The places through which they journey are desolate, and the mood is decidedly sombre throughout the film.

Director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki relied largely on natural lighting for the film, which helped paint the scenery in drab greys and browns. If you want your work in the production and final project terms of your film school education to exhibit a similarly depressing tone, consider utilizing the subdued lighting of a cloudy day to help achieve your goal.

2. Use of Sunlight and Firelight Helped Make The Revenant‘s Visuals Distinct

The Revenant is another great example of natural lighting, again thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki. In this film, which follows a man journeying through frozen wilderness in search of revenge, use of natural light helped contribute to a realistic, brutal atmosphere.

Differences in the colour temperature of light sources also led to some beautiful, emotional shots. The cool, blue-tinted light of the sun heightened the loneliness of a man wandering the winter landscape, and reddish firelight was used at times to provide constrained warmth in portions of the picture. Considering the emotional impact of different colour temperatures, as was done in The Revenant, can help you use natural light to great effect while completing your courses in film.

3. Wild Shows Students in Film School that Natural Light Can Be Breathtaking

Natural light is not just a tool for creating a sense of gloom. As evidence, consider the film Wild, which follows a woman on a journey of discovery as she hikes along the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail is famous for its spectacular views and varied climates—it stretches along the west coast from Mexico to the Canadian border—and natural lighting (in the hands of cinematographer Yves Belanger) was used as a way to help communicate the diversity and splendour of the landscapes.

Natural lighting helped the landscape shine in Wild

Natural lighting helped the landscape shine in Wild

If you find yourself working on a film project that places importance on the natural world, consider employing a similar tactic by using natural lighting. Fans of nature will likely find much to appreciate in the way your work highlights, and doesn’t try to alter, the beauty of your chosen landscape.

Natural light can be used to many effects, and is an interesting tool for budding filmmakers to explore. Consider trying it out to create standout visuals at film school and beyond.

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Students in Film Courses, Here’s a Day in the Life of a Production Assistant

Posted on December 2nd, 2016 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

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For decades, many young professionals in the film industry have gotten their start as a production assistant. It’s how Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy entered the business in 1979, and it’s one of the first industry jobs actress and producer Mindy Kaling took in the early 2000s.

The production assistant role endures as an entry point in part because the role pops up for all kinds of film and television projects, and in part because the role involves taking on many responsibilities. Becoming a production assistant can be key to meeting future employers and beginning your career in the film industry.

Wondering what a day’s work is like for production assistants? Here is a quick look at what you can expect.

Production Assistants Out of Film Production Schools: Yes, Expect to Get Coffee

It’s a long-running joke that production assistants spend much of their time running around delivering coffee to the various higher-ups on a set or in an office. For many PAs, it’s also a reality.

It may be heartening to learn that it is not just coffee and other foodstuffs that PAs are sent to fetch. Depending on what their bosses might need on a given day, PAs might be sent to collect essential equipment, or asked to buy or return props. Essentially, if there’s something that needs to be grabbed before cameras start rolling, a PA will probably be sent to get it.

Though this portion of the job won’t make great use of the scriptwriting, production, or editing skills you honed at school, you will likely find it is a necessary step toward performing the more engaging work you want to do.

PAs Are Sometimes Tasked With Facilitating Technical Work

If you are interested in doing camera or sound work, or in working with lighting, you can make inroads to those careers by starting as a production assistant.

PAs are sometimes asked to help establish the right conditions for filming. They do things like ensure the set remains quiet, or that other people around the set don’t walk into a shot. They will often also be asked to help load and unload film equipment. For jobs like these, the knowledge from your film courses will certainly come in handy. You will have learned which tools go by what name, and will be familiar with what constitutes ideal filmmaking conditions. You might even be able to take a proactive role, and complete necessary tasks before even being asked.

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Production assistants often help maintain good filming conditions on set

After Studying in Film Courses, You Might Be Tasked With Managing Paperwork as a PA

One of the more important responsibilities graduates of film production schools might experience as a PA is managing paperwork. This can include tasks like ensuring cast and crew are all given the right copies of scripts, or collecting timesheets. PAs might even be asked to organize a director’s notes, which Steven Spielberg tasked Kathleen Kennedy with doing when she worked as a PA.

Organizational skills developed during your film production education will be helpful while working in this role, and if you make yourself a reliable enough asset, you may find you gain the favour of someone who is higher up on your set. This can lead to future opportunities, or even moments where you are asked for input.

PA jobs are demanding, and involve some work that may seem unrelated to the expertise you developed in film production school. Still, they can open the door to future opportunities as a production coordinator, camera assistant, and even grip positions. They are one of the main ways newcomers break into the film industry. If that is your goal, a PA job may be a good choice after you complete your studies.

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3 Facts About Writers’ Room Hierarchy for Students in Television Schools

Posted on November 25th, 2016 - Written by: Trebas Toronto


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Success in the writers’ room is a collective effort amongst many individuals

Collaboration between many talented minds is fundamental when it comes to writing the next hit television series. Fan favourite shows like Breaking Bad, led by showrunner Vince Gilligan, or Grey’s Anatomy, led by showrunner Shonda Rhimes, could not have been such huge successes without every role in the writers’ room being executed properly.

After graduation, you can rest assured that no matter where you fit in that hierarchy, you will play a meaningful role in the creation of what might just be the next big hit. Keep reading to discover three facts about the writers’ room and its hierarchy.

Students in Film and TV School Will Likely Start Out as Entry Level Writers

Students who are fresh out of television schools will start at the bottom of the hierarchy, often occupying a staff writer position. As a staff writer, you aren’t guaranteed to write an episode and you may not have your name listed on the credits. However, securing this coveted position is a great accomplishment and can be a good stepping stone for your career in television.

It’s up to you to engage with your supervisors as much as possible to become an asset to your showrunner and senior writers. After a season of showing them your potential, you may be promoted to story editor. Story editors can pitch ideas to the senior writers and provide their opinion on the show’s creative direction.

Midlevel Positions Include Executive Story Editor and Co-Producer

Writers’ room midlevel positions include the executive story editor, co-producer, and producer. Professionals who move into these roles likely have a few seasons behind them and understand the ins and outs of the writers’ room. Midlevel writers may be lucky enough to write an episode of their own and appear in the episode’s credits. Duties of these writers can even include attending production meetings and castings.

However, the primary role of a midlevel writer will still mainly include writing and creating stories for a show’s episodes. To achieve the senior writers’ respect, you must demonstrate your dedication and use the knowledge you gained at film and TV school. If you do this successfully, you may move up to a senior writer position as you progress through your career.


courses in television

Midlevel writers may get the chance to write their own episodes!


Experienced Grads of Film and TV School May Become Senior Level Writers

Senior level positions include the supervising producer, co-executive producer, and executive producer, who all work under the guidance of the showrunner. Most of these roles serve as a right-hand to the showrunner, who is in many ways the “CEO” of the TV series. Often, the showrunner wrote the pilot episode and is the driving force behind the idea of the show. The showrunner will also enjoy complete creative control over the TV show. If the showrunner has to be away from the writers’ room for any reason, the senior level writers will step in and take charge.

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Taking Film Courses? 4 Tips for Making Memorable War Movies

Posted on November 11th, 2016 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

War movies are some of the most expensive and elaborate to film

War movies are some of the most expensive and elaborate to film

The very first war movie to depict the struggles of battle was The Big Parade, filmed in 1925. The film starred a bartender, riveter, and millionaire’s son thrown into the trenches of WW1 together. In many ways, this movie set the tone for many iconic films to come.

Although most of us haven’t been to war, many of us base our interpretations off the narratives of veterans and films about war. Some critics believe the war film genre glorifies war and deserves criticism. However, many others believe well-crafted war films hold the power to expose the realities real-life soldiers have faced.

As filmmakers, crafting realistic and honourable war movies that are honest to war-time situations could help to honour soldiers and their stories. If you’re interested in the art of film, read on to discover four tips for making memorable war films.

1. Students at Film School Should Make Well-Researched War Movies

War films can either be based on historical wars, like the World Wars and Vietnam War, or fictional wars thought up by the minds of creatives like you. When writing the screenplay for a film that is based off a real war, it is important to do thorough research on the actual events that took place.

Many war film fans and history buffs can see right through a bluffed story line, and the film will immediately lose believability if not carefully researched. By making sure certain details remain true to what actually occurred, you help the viewer get lost in your captivating storyline instead of being distracted by inaccurate details.

2. Students in Film Courses Should Incorporate Battle Scenes Into War Films

Unarguably, the mark of a great war movie is an action-packed battle scene with suspense, looming misfortune, and gore. Think Steven Spielberg’s practically record-setting 24-minute battle scene in Saving Private Ryan. In the scene, Captain John H. Miller, played by Tom Hanks, arrives to Omaha Beach with his troops and is faced with a bloodbath of a battle. The scene alone cost $11 million USD to create, with some arguing it was one of the most true-to-life war battle scenes ever filmed.

Producing a scene where the viewer has a three-dimensional sense of what is going on requires many different shots of the same scene. Altering points of views and perspectives adds realism and depth. In Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg even brought in underwater cameras to add realism to the famous battle scene.

After film school you may get the chance to create war films. Although you might not have a blockbuster sized budget, one way you can prepare to create great battle scenes is by story boarding. Story boards lay out how a scene will look from each different camera angle. It helps ease production of a scene that has a ton of action, ensuring that the final cut looks cohesive.

Story boards can help you keep all your scenes organized and cohesive

Story boards can help you keep all your scenes organized and cohesive

3. Captivating Conflict Is the Key for Great War Films

A common criticism about war movies is that they all have similar character dynamics. A supportive leader, an under-prepared young soldier, and a quirky odd ball all forming a dysfunctional group set out to take on the enemy. Sound familiar? As a student in film courses, you know that great, revolutionary, and ground-breaking films push the envelope and try something new.

Films based off actual historic wars provide a unique challenge: audiences already know the story’s outcome, since it’s common knowledge how each war ended. So, as a film writer or producer you must create a unique conflict within the broad umbrella of that specific war to keep your audience enthralled. Finding this unique story is what makes war movies truly memorable.

4. Students in Film School Should Have Respect for History

When creating, watching, or discussing war films it is important to pause and reflect on the real instances of war you are portraying. Iconic war movies like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List do not make a cartoon out of warfare. They work to demonstrate situations people of that time may have found themselves in as realistically as possible.

During your film studies, you may handle sensitive subject matter like war, crime, or abuse. It is important to respect those who have been impacted by the subject matter. Carrying this respect with you as you write, produce, and edit films will improve the quality and authenticity of your film and help you connect with your viewers. Films have the power to draw attention to global issues that may have been left unnoticed or forgotten. By pursuing training in film you can use your creativity to help change the world for the better.

Student in film school should respect the actualities of war

Student in film school should respect the actualities of war

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3 Seinfeld-Approved Tips for Writing Comedy that Students in Television Schools Can Try!

Posted on October 28th, 2016 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

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The years pass, but the influence of the sitcom Seinfeld lingers on. For many, the show was a perfect mix of relatability and clownishness, taking experiences familiar to many and making hilarious sport of them. It was life made extraordinarily funny.

A big part of Seinfeld’s success is owed to the wit of the writing, and though the show first aired all the way back in 1989, there are plenty of lessons for writers in the present day to take away.

Want a little wisdom from one of the most acclaimed comedies ever? Here are three takeaways from the Seinfeld writers’ room that are worth thinking about.

1. Students in Television Schools Can Make Small, Relatable Ideas Funny

Sometimes, it’s big, ridiculous ideas that get the laughs. Take Seinfeld’s “The Soup Nazi,” the rude man behind the counter at a soup restaurant. Funny? Yes, and he’s one of the most famous characters from the series. But situations like those aren’t the only kind that are laugh-worthy. Smaller, relatable moments are also great for getting audiences laughing.

In an interview with Vulture, former Seinfeld writer Peter Mehlman shared an idea he pitched to showrunner Larry David: “What if Jerry’s dating a girl who hates George?” That simple idea ended up being the basis for part of an episode. While a “smaller” premise might not seem as flashy, it can be easier for audiences to connect to.

2. For Writing Success in Your Courses In Television, Use Seinfeld’s Chain Method

Students in television schools might already know that finding the motivation to complete a project can sometimes be challenging. Fortunately, there are all kinds of ways to motivate yourself. Jerry Seinfeld himself has a method he uses when writing comedy: don’t break the chain.

For this method, he has a printout of the calendar for an entire year, all on a single page. Every day he writes gets a red ‘X’ drawn across it in marker. The goal is to never break the chain of days with red Xs.


courses in television

To make progress on a project, devote time to it every day

Apps like “Habits” for Android and “Way of Life” for iOS can serve the same purpose, with the added benefit of regular reminders not to break your chain. However you manage it, regularly putting in a little bit of work toward completing a project will let you see real progress.

3. Writing Comedy for TV Is a Group Effort, So Don’t Take Changes Personally

In his interview with Vulture, Mehlman also talks about collaboration on the series, and having to surrender scripts over to Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld for editing and punch-up.
“There were times when it was like a complete makeover, and other times where it was more of a massaging,” he said, and though he said he got more control over his scripts as time went on, the process still risked instilling feelings of “a little loss of ownership.”

Higher-ups making changes are a guarantee in the TV business, and even showrunners have to answer to networks. Whether working on projects for courses in television, or for a show like Seinfeld, it’s important to accept that other people will have input into and comments on your work.


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When writing comedy, be prepared for others to edit your scripts

Considering all kinds of ideas, working consistently toward a goal, and learning to accept feedback are all important tips to help you further a career in comedy writing. These Seinfeld-approved tips are things worth practicing while enrolled in television school and beyond!

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