When prospective filmmakers graduate from high school and begin eyeing colleges, many have their sights set on big-name schools like Columbia College, the University of Southern California and UCLA.
But Scottsdale Community College is giving those four-year universities a run for their tuition.
It touts the latest film equipment houses in the state that includes equipment like the J.L. Fisher Dolly — which the school is annually certified to hold – alumni including comedians David Spade and Bill Hader and a curriculum that makes students begin shooting movies as soon as they set foot on campus.
So it was more of a pat on the back than a surprising honor when Bill True, chair of SCC’s Scottsdale School of Film+Theatre, learned that the school was among the top 20 film schools in the nation named by Variety.
“I think it's a new-found honor because we haven't done anything…different this year,” True said.
The school gives students hands-on experience on how to shoot a film.
“Our approach is that we get students making movies immediately,” True said. “Students in our introduction to filmmaking class are already shooting stuff right away.
“They start with the cameras on their phones but by the end of the semester, they're using our first level DSLR and our beginner-level BlackMagic cameras to actually begin to shoot things,” he said. “And in their second semester, they are everybody's required to shoot on a 16-millimeter film.”
Once students have gotten their feet wet with beginner-level equipment, they get access to the largest equipment house in the state with over $2.5 million of gear.
They are also exposed to special effects and editing software they might not touch at other institutions until their last semesters.
“We have everything from shooting it to editing it to doing special effects. We can do the whole kit and caboodle here,” True said.
In addition to giving students top-of-the-line equipment to work with, the school provides experienced industry professionals to instruct its classes like True, a working screenwriter, and horror film producer and director Patrick Roddy.
“We're working professionals ourselves so we rigorously teach and support the craft and we're teaching people how to be in the industry,” True said. “We're teaching them not just general professionalism, but we're teaching them what the filmmaking life is from the inside.”
Since the school doubles as a theater school and a film school, it also utilizes sets built by the stage production team to create lavish sets on campus.
“A lot of film schools may have space but the fact that we are the film and theater is another experience that students might not get elsewhere,” Roddy said. “The ability to come into a space like this and actually build a set is something that would experience in Los Angeles.”
Because of this, True has seen the school’s alumni land jobs on film sets all across Hollywood.
“You can go on any film set or TV set in Hollywood right now and find a Scottsdale School of Film+ Theater person working on it,” True said.
Though the school has much to brag about, it still carries the misnomers associated with being a community college.
However, True sees that as an advantage for students.
“The nice thing that we're seeing in the educational sphere right now is that community colleges are finally getting the respect that they deserve,” True said.
“People are recognizing that it's good to go to a place that focuses on an occupation and we never forget that we are dedicated to getting kids jobs and that we're a proud occupational program.”
True also says he notices any misconceptions about community colleges exit the stage once students set foot on Scottsdale Community College’s campus.
“They realize they found a hidden gem and they realized that they’ve hit the lottery because they're paying community college prices, but they're getting an education that they didn't expect that we're going to get,” True said.
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