Fast Out of the Gate
Meadows film student Ryan Blitzer writes about the value of "gear the first year."
By Ryan Blitzer
(B.F.A. Film & Media Arts; B.A. Advertising; M.A. Popular Film & Media Studies '17)
My love for filmmaking started to develop in high school and was greatly expanded, even in my first week of classes, at SMU.
Among all the film schools in the U.S., not many allow a student to touch cameras and lights until one is a junior, let alone in the first class. This is one reason I turned down schools like UCLA, Florida State University and UT Austin. At SMU I felt like a kid in a candy store. I was learning equipment that would allow me to start making films immediately, and most important, correctly. I was on set six weekends in a row on six different films in the second semester of my freshman year, while simultaneously taking advanced production courses at SMU. The knowledge I learned in the classroom was immediately reinforced on film sets on which I had the privilege of working.
I also made new friends! Through the Student Filmmakers’ Association (SFA), I made immediate connections with like-minded individuals. I was one of the directors of photography (also known as the cinematographer, the person who creatively makes the director’s vision come to life on the screen) on a film produced by SFA. The experience I gained on the first day on set was all due to the mentorship of other film students. I’ve since made many films, including a feature film, with the same group of people.
I was able to secure an internship at the Cannes International Film Festival in May 2014. The famous festival and market was an excellent place for me to meet anyone and everyone from all around the world and to also learn about the business side of film. I worked on the Croisette, the main thoroughfare of Cannes, for two weeks to analyze scripts, meet with international distributors, network with professionals and celebrities and work on a digital filmmaking magazine. Over and over, everyone tells you that it’s “all about who you know” in the film industry and now my network spans the globe, from Los Angeles to South Africa.
Do you know what films are popular right now? I learned the answer a year and a half ago from a meeting with a film distributor: family films. I was able to use knowledge such as this to expand my studies. On top of that, SMU has allowed me to work on earning a Master of Arts in Popular Film & Media Studies. I’m completing the new 4+1 program as a “3+1,” earning my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film & Media Arts, Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and a master’s in four years. It is great that SMU allows students the flexibility to challenge themselves in this way.