The Cinematic Arts program at University of Southern California is considered by most to be among the top 5 film schools in the country for both BA and MA seeking students. It is an alma mater that continues to produce successful, award winning filmmakers and actors year after year. Admittance to this program is highly competitive, and for someone like filmmaker Ian Spohr, it was the obvious choice in advancing his dream to work in the movie industry. In a candid conversation, we explored some of the realities of pursing a film degree.
Where there other film schools you wanted to go to?
Well I knew I needed to be in the heart of Los Angeles, because that’s the heart of the industry. So it was UCLA or USC. Once I seriously decided to go to film school, I set my heart on USC. I wanted to go to the best program I could get into. I didn’t really know about any other schools.
What film jobs interested you the most?
I always wanted to be a filmmaker, but it’s one of those things you say as a kid, without a real plan. Like, oh, I want to be an astronaut. I didn’t make a real plan until I moved to San Diego and started working on skateboarding films, doing sports action camerawork and reality TV. That’s really why I wanted to go to film school, ‘cause reality TV is terrible.
What was your first student film? How was your experience making that?
My first student film was Dionysus Thrax, it seems to be the piece that got me the most attention. I really love films that aren’t defined by genres; Dionysus Thrax was my dark-comedy/sci-fi piece. It was a really great experience. In film school, everyone wants to help you out. Once you’re out of school, it’s a different story.
What was your first job out of film school? What do you do now?
Doing cinematography for the documentary Fuel (2009), which is also how I got into stereography [3-D] work. The camera side of things has always been where my technical skills lay. Now, I work freelance and with the Astronauts Guild.
What words of advice would you give a future film student?
Pretty much everyone goes into film school thinking they’re going to be recognized as the next creative genius director. But Hollywood isn’t run by a democratic process; it’s a world of relationships-who you know gets you the job, so what you know is just as important. Get into the best program available to you. Experiment with every aspect of filmmaking. Help out in every student project you can. Really take your opportunity to be a small fish because people are willing to help you. It’s really about connections, so make as many as possible.
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