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Maren Johnson | Education Policy, Film | September 30, 2012

Study Your Craft


by Maren Johnson

The auditorium was packed with several hundred teenagers from two school districts when the bell rang for lunch.  No one moved.  The occasion causing the students to sit in place and ignore the bell?  An arts assembly at our school.  In conjunction with a local film festival, our students had watched a movie in their social studies classes and now had the opportunity to hear from the director.  A student asked the guest speaker one last question, "Do you have any advice for aspiring film makers?"   Students wanted to hear the answer, and they weren't going anywhere until they did, lunch bell or not.  Our guest, the award winning film maker Alrick Brown, shared three ideas in response:

1) Study your craft.  If you shake your booty on YouTube, that doesn't mean you're a film maker. If you get a million hits on the internet, that doesn’t mean you’re a film maker. The success needs to be replicable and you get that by studying your craft. 

At first I thought this was some sort of statement against the democratization of art through social media.  Not at all.  Our guest mentioned that the reason he was able to be a successful film maker, making movies in often difficult circumstances in developing countries, was because he studied and worked hard at it: a Masters Degree in Education, followed by two years in the Peace Corps, then a Masters Degree in Film making.   The message of the importance of study and hard work in all careers really seemed to hit home with the students.  Clearly this applies to teachers as well—we need to study our craft!

Video Productions teacher with guest film maker