Dear Year Ones,
I’m taking a break from reading film synopses and moving into my new apartment in Los Angeles to say hello. Like you guys, I am in a mix of emotions because I’m heading back to film school in 2 weeks – not to mention settling into a new city! Needless to say, the Asian boy that I am, I miss my prata plaster and Milo Dino so badly! 🙁
Just a quick background: My name is He Shu Ming and I am a graduate of the BA (Hons) Film programme at The Puttnam School of Film. I graduated in 2010 and am starting my Masters as a Directing Fellow at the American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory.
I had some of the best times at The Puttnam School of Film (PSOF). We had just moved into the new city campus at McNally Street in August 2007, and the weekly film screening during my first year was held at The Cathay; the studio was literally an empty space – it sounded like an absolute mess, I know – but depending on how you look at it we started film school with a blank canvas and it was pretty exciting! And, look how the school has transformed now….
It will still be an absolute riot for you guys. Writing scripts and treatments, preparing for film shoots, finding funding, going on film sets, internships, hours in the editing suites, sitting through critiques – the list goes on. Getting to know one another and getting along….
Here are 12 things I’ve learned and that you should keep in mind about your new life at PSOF:
- You will be really busy. Film school is no walk in the park but this is what you have signed up for. I’ve missed countless birthdays, parties and dinners during my time in film school. Try to return phone calls and emails.
- Learn everything. Script supervising, production budgeting, art assisting, editing, AD-ing, boom operating – the works: if you want to be an ‘auteur’, at least know some stuff. And do them at least once.
- Invest in Vitamin C. Too much Red Bulls and caffeine are not good for your stomach and makes you a wreck during presentations. Take care of your health. If you smoke, smoke less. Or you know, quit smoking.
- Politics. There will inevitably be politics. Cliques will be formed, gossips will be made and there will be competition. You will make friends, and definitely some enemies. Leave your ego at the door. Try to remember you’re not a contestant in a reality show, and be that person everyone wants to work with.
- Be open-minded. Go to the museums, watch some plays, read some books. Learn to appreciate filmmakers from Michael Bay to Michelangelo Antonioni. Get off your high horse and don’t scoff at soap operas, too.
- See what’s out there. Get to know the film community in Singapore. Go for Singapore Short Cuts, The Singapore International Film Festival, First Take at The Substation and graduate screenings of other film schools.
- Be nice to your cast and crew. Always feed them well. Comfort food and cold drinks at the end of the shoot are always welcomed.
- Drive safely. Get a driving license if you don’t already have one.
- Invest in gaffer tapes. Of. Every. Colour. You. Can. Find. And wooden pegs. And your own headphones. And a good portable external hard disk.
- Get advice. When you finish writing a script or an edit, get input from your classmates, family, lecturers and cast. One invaluable advice I took away from a lecturer – learn to throw away your baby – you know that one money shot you had worked so hard on? If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. One of the best skills you will learn is to balance incorporating and discarding inputs into your works.
- Find a balance. Get a life outside of film school. Form soccer teams; play LAN games, knit, yoga or sleep. Whatever you can do that is not related to cinema.
- Don’t ask for permission. Ask for forgiveness.
We are all here in film school to be better storytellers for the screen. It’s going to be grueling, heart-breaking, thought-provoking and crazy but it will also be very inspiring and rewarding. Make the most out of everything. Be humble, open and most of all – have fun!
I wish you all the best in your next three years at The Puttnam School of Film and will look forward to meeting you in person some time in the near future!
The Puttnam School of Film, Class of 2010.