Friday, August 20, 2010

Those Who Can Teach

I got asked to speak a few times after finishing my first feature film "The Keyman."  After the second movie "A Promise Kept," I had developed the "Greenlight Yourself" idea and would use it when invited to speak to the indie film clubs and such.

At that point I posted on the website that a DVD training program for making your own film would be coming out.  Then I shelved that plan.  Why?  I had only done two movies.  I really felt I need a little more on my resume, and more importantly, experiences I could share, before offering to teach people how to do it.

Now after five feature films, I've started doing some seminars in between the projects.  And one thing that amazes me as I look around at other offerings (trying to figure out what to teach that isn't there and what to charge), is the lack of experience in the so called "experts."  I've seen Filmmaking seminars and workshops where the teachers have at best, made a couple of shorts that were in a festival.  Or had finally completed one feature film.

Yeah maybe.  I guess if you can really get some good information from them, then by all means.  I can only go by my own experiences-- when I started down this movie making path, I sat in on everything I could find.  I read all the books.  I sat and listened to the panels at the film festivals.  One of the most helpful seminars I attended was by a guy who had only made shorts (though award winning and very popular), and then had been an executive at a major distributor.

Then you have Robert McKee.  Though heavy on structure, he's one of the best screenwriter teachers.  I learned tons through his seminar and book.  But even sitting in his seminar after making Keyman, I had one more produced screenplay than he did.  Some people are born to teach.

I met one fellow filmmaker who had made a movie that was pretty bad.  But somehow, a big distributor picked up US video rights.  It bombed and he wondered why he could never get foreign or television.  I talked to my foreign distributor at the time and she told me that the movie was just too bad.

So that filmmaker created a seminar on how to get Distribution, and that's all he does I think.  He probably has some good information.  I mean, look at film schools (outside the biggies).  The people teaching film aren't the ones out there making movies.  And as I've started doing seminars and teaching at UTA last spring, yes, I was a bit worried about the old adage "those who do, do.  those who can't, teach."

But the bottom line is that I really enjoy teaching.  And yes, it's a way to earn a little revenue in between the movies.  And I'd like to keep doing both-- teaching and making movies.  Don't see a lot out there doing both.  So we'll see if I can do it.

So what are your thoughts on all the seminars and workshops out there?


  1. My dad was a teacher, retired from it. He had a masters degree in physics, but only one and a half college chemistry classes under his belt. Due to the need for science teachers when he started teaching, he was often waivered into classwork that he later earned the degree to teach. In his 35 or so years, he taught almost everything public schools offered.

    In spite of his lack of preparedness, he ended up teaching chemistry more often than physics. And he was really good, exceptional, to the point that college professors gave preference to his students. He became known for his wisdom and would sometimes get calls from all over the world, asking questions that he would inevitably answer for them - pre-internet googling, from a tiny town in Kansas with a poorly stocked library. Some people ARE intended to teach.

    And then there are people who no amount of classwork and preparation will turn into teachers. I had one professor with a doctorate in education who ended every single class with the phrase, "Another day, another dollar." He very clearly did not want to be there and wasn't really there to teach. If he ever knew it, he had forgotten how to stimulate minds.

    I'm glad you enjoy teaching. From what I read in your blog, I imagine that you're pretty good at it. In my opinion, someone who is born to teach and has SOME knowledge can overcome a lack of experience, but experience only improves someone like that. Dad got better and better at teaching through the years.

    Your work is valuable to teach, you have experience, and you're a good teacher already. Time and more experience will only improve matters.

  2. Thanks for the comment! Sounds like your dad was quite special.