Not the usual suspects

Industry training programs requirement: 'Passion'

Whether you’ve decided you can afford the hefty pricetag of going back to school for an advanced degree or simply want to boost your skills with a course or hands-on training program, there are plenty of options available in Los Angeles and New York. And some industry training programs don’t require previous experience, just enthusiasm.

“Right now, passion is the most important thing,” says Logan Johnson Jr., a Los Angeles Film School enrollment rep.

So whether you’re a casting agent who really wants to direct or an editor who needs skill polishing, the following is a guide to hands-on training programs located in both cities. The list is not comprehensive. Rather, it’s a gleaning of programs you might not be familiar with, or those that have incorporated innovations, new segments or courses. Please contact an individual program for further information.

American Cinema Editors Internship Program

Matches interns with editors working in episodic and longform TV and feature film.

What can be learned: Each intern spends one week with three editors — one episodic, one longform TV and one feature — and makes field trips to post-production facilities.

Program highlights: For college grads seeking a career in film editing, the exposure can’t be beat.

Tuition: There is no charge for the program.

Who should apply: Individuals with a BA and experience on nonlinear digital editing equipment. Current apprentice or assistant film editors should not apply. Two to three students are accepted each year.

How to apply: Submit a resume with cover letter, stating all experience, education and editing experience including the type of equipment used, and two letters of recommendation to: Internship Committee, American Cinema Editors

100 Universal City Plaza, Bldg. 2282, Room 234

Universal City, CA 91607. More information is available on their Web site:

Assistant Directors Training Program

Sponsored by the Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, the program trains second assistant directors by providing 400 days of on-the-job training.

What can be learned: The program provides an inside look at the organization and logistics of motion picture and television production, including set operations, paperwork, and the working conditions and collective bargaining agreements of guilds and unions.

Program highlights: Since its inception in 1965, more than 400 trainees have received training, gaining a toehold in the entertainment industry. Upon satisfactory completion of the program, trainees’ names are placed on the Southern California Area Qualification List, making them eligible for employment as second assistant directors.

Compensation:Trainee pay scale begins at $504 a week, and culminates at $619 a week after 300 days of work are completed.

Who should apply: Applicants must have the legal right to work in the U.S., be a minimum of 21 years of age, live in the L.A. area and have a car. In addition, trainees should be able to withstand long hours and physically demanding work. The number of trainees accepted each year ranges between 15 to 25.

How to apply: Applications can be requested by mail: Directors Guild — Producer Training Plan, 14724 Ventura Blvd., Suite 775, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403; e-mail, or downloaded from

New York Assistant Director Training Program

A two-year program that provides opportunities for a limited number of individuals to become assistant directors.

What can be learned: From the 350 days of on-the-job training, combined with seminars and special assignments, a trainee will work on a variety of productions that may include full-length feature films (high or low budget), episodic television, TV movies or commercials.

Program highlights: After successful completion of all requirements, trainees are eligible to join the DGA as second assistant directors.

Compensation:Weekly scale begins at $487 and increases to $598 for the final six months of the program. Trainees are entitled to overtime pay after working 54 hours in a week.

Who should apply: Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. A four-year college degree and some industry experience is recommended but not essential.

On average, the program receives 250-300 applications a year for approximately six spots.

How to apply: Applications can be requested through regular mail by calling (212) 397-0930 or downloaded from

Los Angeles City College –Department of Cinema and Television (LACC)

LACC’s Dept. of Cinema-Television offers a two-year associate of arts degree as well as certificates in cinema-video production, cinematography skills and post-production skills, among others. Individual courses are also available if the student meets the prerequisites.

Sample course work:digital audio post-production; introduction to animation; television lighting and sound.

Program highlights: A low-cost, hands-on training program in both film and television production. Director Mimi Leder (“Deep Impact”) is an alum, as is Tarsem Singh (“The Cell”).

Tuition: For California residents, $11 per unit (courses are typically three units).

Who should apply: Students on tight budgets seeking an introduction to film and TV production or simply to brush up their skills.

How to apply: Call LACC’s admissions office, (323) 953-4385, or visit Web site:

Los Angeles Film School

Ten-month “film immersion” program. Areas of concentration include producing, directing, cinematography, editing, and sound and production design, with an emphasis on digital filmmaking.

Sample course work:Film mixing, fundamentals of acting, introduction to high-definition video

Program highlights: A 6,000-square-foot digital soundstage equipped with Sony high-definition cameras and a high-definition control center plus experts from Panavision, Canon, Kodak, among others, familiarize students with camera, lighting, grip and other equipment.

Tuition: Approximately $23,000. Part-time classes are also available on a first come, first served basis, with fees ranging from $200-$960 per class.

Who should apply: For full-time slots, enthusiasm is key, and can be conveyed to the admissions staff via a personal essay and a strong portfolio. As for the part-time courses, most are of interest to people already working in the business who want to expand their skill sets.

How to apply: Applications available by calling (323) 860-0789 or downloading from

New York Film Academy

Four 12-week workshops offered year round (Los Angeles and New York locations) in which each student writes, produces, directs and edits his own short film. Separate acting and directing workshops are also offered.

Sample course work:Hands-on camera, lighting and production workshop, sound design, writing.

Program highlights: The Academy maintains over 200 camera packages and students retain copyright to films produced in their workshops.

Tuition: $3,500-$5,950 depending on workshop length; equipment and processing fees approximately $2,000-$6,000.

Who should apply: Newbie filmmakers looking to develop a sense of the craft, as well as those with experience looking to refine their skills.

How to apply: Applications available by calling (212) 674-4300 or by visiting their Web site,

New York University — Tisch School of the Arts

Three-year master’s of fine arts degrees offered in dramatic writing, and film and TV production, and a two-year master’s of professional studies offered in the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), NYU’s digital media department.

Sample course work:camera technology (production), designing for convergence (ITP), storytelling (writing).

Program highlights: With New York City as a backdrop, the university attracts part-time faculty such as Tony Kushner and Wendy Wasserstein, while Silicon Valley, Redmond, Wash., and New York’s Silicon Alley are populated with ITP grads well-versed in emerging technologies.

Tuition: Fees for academic year 2000-01 were $12,630 a semester, with production students paying additional fees for equipment and lab use.

Who should apply: While a filmmaking background is not required, a highly creative one is. Many of the students applying to ITP for instance, are lawyers, composers or architects, seeking to launch new careers.

How to apply: Online applications can be found at or applications can be received via fax on demand, (212) 995-4871. More information is available at

UCLA Extension — Professional Studies in the Entertainment Industry

UCLA’s continuing education component offers individual courses in cinematography, directing, production design/art design and visual-effects design, among other subjects. The program also offers certificates in the business and management of entertainment and content creation for entertainment media. Courses taught on weekends and evenings.

Sample course work:composition and framing for the motion picture camera; directing actors for film and television; introduction to set design and model building for film and television.

Program highlights: Courses continually updated to reflect changing technologies and taught by working professionals.

Tuition: Approximately $225-$850 per course, depending on length (typically 12 weeks) and subject matter.

Who should apply: Budding filmmakers looking for a chance to learn about the craft without making a huge financial or time commitment and industry professionals seeking to polish or enhance their skills. There are no academic requirements for admission.

How to apply: Call (310) 825-9971 or (818) 784-7006; online forms are also available at

University of Southern California-School of Cinema Television (USC-CNTV)

Three-year master’s of fine art degrees offered in animation and digital arts, and film and television production; two-year MFAs in writing for screen and television, and the Peter Stark Producing Program. In addition, a visual effects MFA program will be offered through the animation-digital arts programs starting in fall 2001 as a joint effort with film-TV production. USC-CNTV also offers a certificate in entertainment business for MBA students.

Sample course work:Directing for writers (writing), entertainment law (producing), introduction to computer animation (animation-digital arts), television editing (film-TV production)

Tuition: Estimated at $796 per unit (students enrolled in animation-digital arts, for example, are required to complete a total of 50 units).

Who should apply: Well-rounded, creative students from diverse backgrounds with strong academic credentials. Beware, however, the application process is highly competitive, with the Peter Stark Producing Program receiving 200 applicants for 25 spots each year.

Program highlights: With prestigious alum such as Robert Zemeckis and George Lucas donating funds for state-of-the-art facilities, USC students have access to the latest tools and technologies.

How to apply: Applicants can call USC’s admissions office, (213) 740-1111 for an application or download one from the university’s Web site, Additional information can be obtained by calling the CNTV student affairs office, (213) 740-3317, or by visiting the CNTV Web site,

The Writers Guild of America, West — Writers Training Program

A training program geared toward matching new writers of diverse backgrounds with companies that produce episodic (drama or comedy) TV series.

What can be learned: Production companies that participate in this voluntary program hire writer trainees to work on episodic television series for an initial term of six weeks, with an option of retaining the trainee for an additional 14 weeks.

Program highlights: Producers of series such as “The Steve Harvey Show” and “Walker, Texas Ranger” have participated in the program.

Compensation:As of May 1999, minimum weekly rate of $649.

Who should apply: Primarily the guild will provide opportunities for writers in the following categories: female, ethnic minority, mentally and physically disabled, 40 years of age or older. To qualify as a writer trainee, a writer must not have been employed as a writer under WGA contract or have sold or optioned any piece of literary material to any signatory company.

How to apply: For more details, contact the WGA, West’s employee access department by phone at (323) 782-4548. For general information visit their Web site,

Walt Disney Studios/ABC TV Fellowship Program (Los Angeles)

Each year up to eight writers are chosen to work full time developing their craft at Disney and ABC. No previous experience is necessary; however, writing samples are required. A $33,000 salary is provided for a one-year period.

Eligibility:This program is open to all writers. For more information, write: Fellowship Program Director, Walt Disney Studios, 500 S. Buena Vista St., Burbank, CA 91521-0705; phone (818) 560-6894 or visit their Web site,

Warner Bros. Writers Workshop (Los Angeles)

Two workshops are held on the Warner Bros. lot each year, in dramatic writing and comedy. Professional-quality script samples are required.

Eligibility:This program is open to all writers. For more information, telephone the workshop’s hotline: (818) 954-7906.

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