Media degrees have been much maligned over the years, but there are plenty of incredible directors out there who have been fundamentally influenced by their time studying film. Media and film degrees offer young directors the chance to master film theory and experiment with their own projects, and can help forge professional industry links. For example, there is a dedicated Media Industry Liaison Coordinator at the University of Bolton for their Media, Writing and Production course.
Here are three iconic directors who cut their teeth at film school:
Long before Star Wars, George Lucas used the freedom of being a student at USC School of Cinematic Arts in California to cut his teeth producing experimental sci-fi shorts. His Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB won first prize at the National Student Film Festival. That short would form the basis of Lucas’ first full feature, and the title THX even became the name of Lucas’ audio visual reproduction company.
Another alumnus of USC, Carpenter’s The Thing and Escape from New York are considered classics, while his Halloween singlehandedly kicked off the whole slasher horror genre.
It was while studying that Carpenter laid the creative foundations of his career to come. In his eight minute short Captain Voyeur, he began experimenting with the ideas of suspense and obsession that would go on to make Halloween so memorable.
In Dark Star, Carpenter and his friends would go on to have a profound effect on cinema. Dark Star is a darkly philosophical stoner comedy set in deep space, and it really is as strange as it sounds. Perhaps the value of film school to Carpenter was the people it allowed him to collaborate with. In Dark Star, Carpenter collaborated with Dan O’Bannon who, through the beach ball alien that stalk characters around their ship, would be inspired to write the script for the iconic Alien.
Not an alumni of USC, but the New York University Tisch School of the Arts. In his student shorts The Big Shave and What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This, Scorsese experimented with his unique staccato editing style and voiceovers that would make Raging Bull and Goodfellas so memorable.