- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 17, 2005

Thinking outside the box seems to come naturally for home-school families, and when it comes to career preparation, this can make us rather picky consumers.

When we looked for college or other training for our daughter who wants to be a filmmaker, we were dismayed to find either theory-heavy college degree programs or technical production training that ignored the business side of the industry. Investing nearly $100,000 in a four-year program takes a substantial bite out of any family’s finances, and there is no promise of actual film-production skills being attained.

We recently learned about an alternative to film school that teaches students the nuts and bolts of creating feature films in a two-day “boot camp” approach. Taught by veteran filmmaker Dov S-S Simens, this intensive weekend seminar has jump-started the filmmaking careers of such luminaries as Will Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie and Queen Latifah.

“I don’t teach bubble gum. It’s cut-to-the-chase information on the business of making a feature film,” Mr. Simens explained in a recent interview. “After taking this course, four percent of the graduates will make a 90-minute film within six months. Out of all the film-school graduates of 2004, 2003 and 2002, not one has done a 90-minute feature film within six months of graduating.”

Mr. Simens’ method is simple but powerful. On the first day of the presentation, he goes through 38 steps to making a film, arranged according to the 38 checks he says a filmmaker will write along the way. Students learn the process of putting their story into a traditional-length film with a budget of as little as $2,000 or as much as $500,000.

On the second day, the class will learn the basics of selling the movie to distributors and attracting financing for the project. Again, this is point-by-point instruction on the do’s and don’ts of making deals and arranging the financial structure of the project.

Graduates of this course have garnered nine Oscar nominations; 22 Emmy Awards; 87 slots at the big film festivals of Sundance, Cannes, Toronto and Raindance in London; and grossed more than $6 billion in receipts — all from the intensive material taught by Mr. Simens in two days. Queen Latifah’s film “Beauty Shop” is a case in point; it has grossed about $30 million.

“I can’t teach talent, but I can show the mechanical steps of creating any film,” Mr. Simens explained. “With this, anyone can launch their career in six months.”

The two-day seminar will be held at the AFI Silver Theatre, 8633 Colesville Road in Silver Spring, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Local organizer Patrick Moses is one of the course’s success stories. A Fairfax native, Mr. Moses created a five-hour special series for Bravo, “The 100 Scariest Movie Moments,” that originally was intended for Halloween weekend programming but has attracted quite a following and has run several times since then. Mr. Moses recently signed a reality-television deal with a major cable network.

Home-schooling families tend to want to get results, not just go through the motions of getting an education. If your child is interested in a career in creating movies, television shows or any cultural product, this is an excellent chance to grasp the process of production in a way that is both efficient and economical — the entire course is just $389.

One warning: The course is taught for adults, not young students, so make sure your child is ready for an intensive, high-energy, concentrated two-day seminar before signing up. A workbook is provided with the course.

Specific information relevant to the D.C.-area filmmaker will be incorporated into the seminar. A photo ID is required. Pens, paper and lunch money should be brought by the student. You can register online at www.dcfilmschool.com and get questions answered by phone at 301/540-4842.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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