Film School Online – A Magic Pill or a Load of Baloney?

Posted on: by Michael Tringe

Art can’t be taught. Well, that’s what most people would tell you. So why do we have art schools in the first place?

Creativity is something that’s hard to describe. Sometimes you feel it and sometimes you don’t. It comes and it goes. So how can we continue to work creatively, or cultivate our creativity for new projects of our own or others in a structured learning environment like a class, a panel, or even by watching an online video tutorial from a so-called film school online?

Any good assistant director will tell you (and any good director who has found a great assistant director): structure around time and space can create a creative space that feels comfortable and free. Could a film school online even begin to structure a learning process for how to work on creative projects?

Part of the trick is to create a structured environment that does not feels so rigid. On a set – you may be directing or gaffing – both require creativity on the spot where you do something, and you may learn something in that moment – but you still have to get the shots and make your day according to the shot list.

Similarly, with a video tutorial – you can watch them whenever you want, or need them. But why would you finish them? Think of it like a shot list. If you want to get the project made, you’ll need to get through the day. Probably you should watch the tutorials as a part of a an applied project that you’re working on where you can apply your knowledge (before, during, or after the project) – so it’s not going in one ear and out the other. If the tutorial has a demo factor – you can also watch somebody else do something, and you gain a starting point for learning by watching. It’s through the doing and the observation of doing that the stuff sticks in your brain.

It’s the listening to the experiences of others that gives you a starting point to begin the doing. We can find inspiration from others – a powerful factor in creativity. And this can be watched through video – and video conferencing can provide a simple and efficient means to watch other people’s projects and provide quick and honest feedback. So maybe a film school online could work – as long as you’re an engaged student who can apply the skills and knowledge to your next project.

So why aren’t we all out painting masterpieces right now if all we need to do is pick up a paintbrush and some paint and watch other people do it well? Probably – there’s a balance between these things: the tools, the time it takes to use them and watch others – or even the developing of a master and apprentice relationship like the good old days of Leondardo DaVinci – and the actual doing of them. We need a little inspiration. Maybe even some structure.

Listen to others who have done it, watch them, learn what you can from the experiences of others – and then go do your own thing. Experiment.  Try a new setting on your camera you’ve never tried before, or you toss the old screenwriting book out the window for a day.

We are always the ones who have to teach ourselves how to do anything, what our style will be, what ideas we want to share. But by organizing ourselves to share our experiences with each other throughout the process – we are learning, every day, in a way that inspires and motivates us to continue creating. And a film school online is just a way to discover expertise at your fingertips and a community with whom to share your ideas.

I’m very excited to participating in the upcoming New Orleans Web Weekend put on by the New Orleans Video Access Center (

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Written by Michael Tringe

Mike Tringe earned his MFA in Film Production from USC and has worked at Creative Artists Agency Film Sales (Paranormal Activity, Black Swan), Vuguru, Michael Eisner's multi-platform studio, (The Booth at the End (Hulu), Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Snag), Little Women Big Cars (AOL), and Blip Networks (300 million monthly views, Smosh, Annoying Orange, Nostalgia Critic).

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