The Collegian
Friday, March 01, 2024

Letter: Prague Film School

Quite a lot was written about Prague in the '90s, the city being trumped up as the new "left bank" for expats with a bohemian bent. Today, foreigners living in the city are generally less interstitial - and the businessman has generally replaced the beatnik on the street.

Even the travelers passing through Prague are less prevalent, as given the weakened dollar and Euro and the precariousness of the global financial situation, people are having to take stock of their personal finances and reassess priorities.

One place in Prague where the above trends seem to be reversed is within the compound of a small UNESCO site which houses Prague Film School. The school is a child of the times, offering full-time programs in filmmaking in an area of mass proliferation of the tools and products of image-making, and providing the professional training during a time of and enhanced need to acquire competitive technical skills.

In the United States, if one wants to study film, one pretty much has to come from a well-to-do background to be able to afford the steep 50,000 USD + annual tuition and hidden cost fees at the top U.S. film schools (USC, UCLA, NYU Tisch). Europeans don't have it much better, because while national film academies don't charge much, they are virtually impenetrable fortresses accepting roughly 5 percent of applicants into their programs.

Prague Film School attracts the autodidact whose interest in film crosses the threshold separating hobby from vocation. Because of the obstacles this individual faces at home, i.e. no film school, expensive film school, impossible to get into film school, he or she looks abroad for alternatives.

In a batch of 40 year-program students at Prague Film School, 30 countries are represented. You get Indians on the streets of Prague experiencing snow for the first time with a film camera in hand, you get students from Iceland working with students from Thailand, Greeks and Turks crewing together, etc.

In one semester at Prague Film School, students typically participate in more than 15 film productions and study a program covering screen writing, cinematography, editing, directing and sound. The ethos of the school is a mix of European art house and American independent cinemas and students are exposed to European and Czech film culture with courses covering Central and Eastern European film. Students shoot on HDV, Super16 mm and, second semester, 35 mm formats.

Prague Film School, while only 5 years old is already ranked among the top 15 film schools world-wide. The students graduating from the school will hopefully make their mark on the future as filmmakers.

Our experience is that the film studies majors return home greatly fortified by their studies at Prague Film School. Living in Prague while immersed in a full-time film program has proven extremely formative for students considering a vocation in filmmaking. The hard skills these students pick up are substantial and the intensive immersion in filmmaking informs them whether the discipline is ultimately where they want to be.

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