Few areas of media or art have been as thoroughly transformed by the digital revolution as the world of film. Digital content has become easier to produce and distribute overall, but the technical styles and effects available to film producers has only multiplied. In the wake of this transformation
Professional Film Organizations
Film students and professionals have access to a number of professional guilds across the nation, which provide scholarships, continuing education opportunities, competitions, and networking conferences. These groups tend to organize based on regional location. Several guilds provide union benefits to film-industry workers, such as contract negotiation services, legal aid, and health insurance discounts.
- Producers Guild of America – This non-profit professional organization has a membership of over 5,000 production workers. Members gain access to many professional benefits, including discount health insurance rates, job postings, dental coverage eligibility, free trade seminars, and free screening admission in select cities. The PGA has authored several members-only resources, including a sustainable energy production guide, the Film USA Incentives Guide, and the Power of Diversity Producing workshop.
- Screen Actors Guild: The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists – SAG-AFTRA is a combination of two unions, covering over 165,000 media professionals who work in journalism and entertainment. They set highly-regarded industry contract standards and advocate for advancements in wages and working conditions. SAG-AFTRA members gain access to benefits such as health insurance eligibility, pension credits, professional training, film discounts, and SAG award voting opportunities.
- The American Film Institute – This non-profit honors and education organization gives members exclusive access to film screenings, AFI awards votes, and cultural education opportunities. The AFI Conservatory for Filmmakers offers a diverse range of film courses on cinematography, production, directing, editing, and screenwriting. AFI also hosts national workshops and showcases to highlight some of the most pivotal modern filmmakers and their work.
- The Directors Guild of America – This is a professional guild with a membership of over 15,000 film, TV, radio directors. The DGA represents members in contract negotiations, copyright protection, and during legislative efforts. This organization was instrumental in advocating the passage of Section 181, bringing tax relief to film and TV production workers on a federal level.
- The Motion Picture Association – The MPAA advocates for filmmakers’ intellectual property rights and freedom of expression. They are the founders of the Classification and Rating Administration system, which assigns ratings to film releases. This allows parents to make better decisions about the films their children watch. The MPAA also releases industry reports and state-by-state statistics, so film professionals can gain insight into current industry trends.
There are dozens of excellent open courseware options for film enthusiasts, both amateur and advanced. You can choose from film study and theory and courses on practical production techniques or technology courses.
- Film Studies – This Stanford University course can be taken for free on iTunes University, which is available from any computer with iTunes access, along with iOS mobile devices. Students will go over topics such as prolific filmmakers’ lives, and the impacts of sexuality and politics in film. Course materials are presented in video and audio formats.
- Film as Visual and Literary Mythmaking – Delve into the philosophical aspects of filmmaking in this open course presented by MIT professor Irving Singer, who is also the author of the textbook used in this class – Reality Transformed: Film as Meaning and Technique. Students gain access to video lectures, assignments, and supplemental texts.
- Producing Films for Social Change – Tufts University has released this 2005 course taught by Roberta Oster Sachs for free via their OpenCourseware website. Students can explore the fundamentals of video journalism and newsroom workflows, with the goal of producing their own documentary project by the end of the course.
- 3D Design – This is another open course provided by Tufts University. So much of our modern day media contains computer-generated three-dimensional graphics and animations, which achieve effects and views that wouldn’t normally be possible. Coursework is built around Blender version 2.6x, which can be downloaded for free on the course website.
Open Access Film Journals
Film studies journals tend to lean toward the scholarly analysis of historical and contemporary media. The following journals explore several types of film work, including digital 3D animation, traditional cartoons, and Hollywood feature films.
- Animation Studies – This is the official, peer-reviewed journal for the Society of Animation Studies, which publishes conference papers by SAS members. Students and professionals can explore topics such as animated music video production, industry trends, 3D kinetic animation, and film theory in the Animation Studies archives.
- Images – This journal is dedicated to the analysis of vintage and classic films, with an “In Focus” column dedicated to the 30 greatest Westerns of all time. Previous issues include features on film noir, an analysis of Tarzan comics and their influence on film, and biographical writings on Tex Avery.
- Film-Philosophy Journal – This publication is open to a broad range of submissions, so long as they pertain to philosophy and film. The FPJ is released twice a year. The editorial board is composed of faculty members from colleges throughout the UK, with representation from the University of London, Cambridge, and the University of Edinburgh. You can view previous issues in PDF or web format.
- Bright Lights Film Journal – This publication was first launched in 1974 by founding editor Gary Morris. It has since grown into a web-only journal that features short articles, reviews, interviews, and academic pieces about film and key professionals. Bright Lights does not shy away from any genre of film, and particularly welcomes written pieces about minority representation.
The following books are considered to be industry “must-reads” for film professionals and students. Several of the introductory books can be used by undergraduates to acquaint themselves with the expansive history of film worldwide. Other volumes are tutorials for aspiring filmmakers, on topics such as symbolism, screenwriting, and distribution.
- Film Art: An Introduction – This is a great compendium of historical film highlights, illustrated with over 1,000 full color stills. Authors David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson analyze a multitude of mainstream cinema examples, easing new film students into industry fundamentals by providing clear cut examples from film.
- The Screenwriter’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script – This book is over a decade old, but its wisdom is evergreen. Author David Trottier walks aspiring and seasoned screenwriters through the process of writing, formatting, revising, and selling a screenplay successfully. This a must-have for film students who want to get a closer look at how stories leap from paper to screen.
- How to Read a Film: The World of Movies, Media, Multimedia – While this book was first published in 1977, it has remained an ever-relevant guide for students entering film studies. Author James Monaco walks readers through cameras, soundtrack production, film syntax, history, politics, popular criticisms, and digital media. This is a canonical volume that every film student must read.
- Film History: An Introduction – The minds behind Film Art: An Introduction also bring this volume to the table, as Bordwell and Thompson describe the film timeline in the United States. Students will get a comprehensive look at the politics, legislation, and technological developments that have led us to the cinema and television entertainment that we know today.
Online Film Industry Magazines
Digital magazine formats lend themselves very well to film studies, since authors can supplement their articles with a wide range of video, photographic, and audio materials. The following magazines range from the occasional tabloid-style news on Hollywood happenings to in-depth business analysis of the film industry.
- Entertainment Weekly – This publication is available online and as a print periodical. While the target audience for EW is a consumer audience, film professionals can still keep tabs on upcoming productions, talent, and mainstream releases with this publication. Articles cover a broad range of popular entertainment, such as TV shows, books, films, and fashion.
- American Cinematographer – This periodical is dedicated to professionals within the film industry, covering current and upcoming releases, tools of the trade, and interviews with distinguished industry members. AC is released in both print and digital formats.
- Backstage – Issue a talent casting call for your next production by checking out Backstage! This online publication is dedicated to developing actors, entertainment news, and upcoming auditions. This can be an excellent resource for filmmakers who need to network with local acting talent.
- The Hollywood Reporter – While this periodical certainly uses a more gossipy voice, it can still provide film professionals with up-to-the moment developments in film culture worldwide, weighing in on film festivals and screenings. HR journalists also cover business angels of filmmaking, exploring movie budgets, franchise buyouts, and other economic events that shape the industry landscape.
Film blogs allow critics, scholars, and filmmakers to share their work with a diverse audience. Like film magazines, these blogs can leverage supplemental materials, such as embedded film, music, and images. These blogs can help you get an insiders’ look at film festivals and the entertainment industry.
- Screen Daily – This is the digital blog of Screen International, a print magazine based in the UK. Readers can get up-to-the moment news on a diverse range of film awards ceremonies, including the Oscars, BAFTAs, and the Golden Globes. Screen Daily’s Festival section dives into current news for Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, Toronto, Venice, SXSW and a number of other prominent film festivals. Industry professionals can explore developments in production, box office numbers, finance, and distribution.
- Roger Ebert – This extremely prolific film critic passed away in 2013, but his team of dedicated columnists are carrying the torch onward. Students and film professionals can find a wealth of film analysis and commentary at Roger Ebert’s official blog, a collection of his writings dating back to 1967. This is truly a great homage to a critic that inspired generations of filmmakers and students.
- Film Comment – This is the official blog for the Film Comment print magazine. You can find reviews of current and upcoming screenings, along with interviews with popular industry talent. This blog isn’t afraid to stray away from the beaten path, posting articles like “The Punk Singer,” describing the riot grrrl movement’s impact on film, music, and history.
- 10 Years Ago: Films in Retrospective – Author Marcus Gorman and contributing authors provide film commentary and analysis on films released a decade ago on this eclectic blog. They revisit international films and cult classics like “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and “Donnie Darko.”
Who to Follow on Twitter
It’s not difficult to find big Hollywood and TV personalities sharing their thoughts on the film industry via Twitter. You can find technical masters such as Gale Hurd and J.J. Abrams sounding off on upcoming releases. Take a look at these influential filmmakers, screenwriters, and creative groups that are shaping the modern film landscape
- @GunnerGale – Gale Anna Hurd has an immense Twitter following and with good reason. She is one of the film industry’s current superstars, working as the executive producer for AMC’s television show “The Walking Dead.” Oh yeah, and she was the producer for hit films like Armageddon, The Incredible Hulk, Terminator, and many others. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012, and remains one of the most visible female leaders within the film industry. Hurd regularly posts about her role in TV production, along with updates on film happenings in Los Angeles.
- @CarltonCuse – Aspiring screenwriters and producers need to pay attention to Carlton Cuse, who won two Primetime Emmy awards and a Golden Globe for his work on Lost. He is currently working on Bates Motel, a horror television series aired on A&E. Cuse regularly interacts with show fans on Twitter, posting about upcoming developments and awards ceremony news. He’s also been known to tweet in-the-moment commentary about other television shows that he’s watching, such as Breaking Bad.
- @bad_robot – This is the official Twitter account for Bad Robot Productions, a company owned by J.J. Abrams, the director of smash hits like the Star Trek reboot franchise and the Alias television show. Bad Robot can gives film students an insiders’ look at the various steps involved in film production, tweeting behind-the-scene photos of the editing process, stage prop creation, and costume design.
- @PhilipBloom – This filmmaker is well-known for his cinematography work with Lucasfilms and on the 2011 documentary, “How to Start a Revolution.” Bloom makes it a point to respond to fan and industry questions via Twitter, sharing his expertise and commentary on current events and cinematography.