Part Zero: Film School Industry/Industry Film School

Film education in the Philippines has become an industry of its own, so to speak. The expansion of workshop-based film education into actual academic film institutions has not only signaled a rise in the demand for film practitioners, but the rise of demand for a specific kind: the educated film practitioner—who later applies the credential in different branches of the film industry as filmmakers (mostly), writers/critics, or educators, sometimes even before finishing the program.

Presently, leading film schools in the Philippines include the UP Film Institute (BA Film/MA Media Studies, Film); De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (AB Digital Filmmaking/Multimedia Arts); International Academy of Film and Television, Bigfoot Entertainment, Cebu (Certificate/Diploma Programs in Filmmaking, Short courses); Asia Pacific Film Institute; Film and Media Arts International Academy, Cebu (One-year diploma course); University of San Carlos, Cebu (BFA Cinema); Mapua University (BA Digital Film); and the Philippine Center for Creative Imaging (Diploma in Filmmaking). A few universities are also on their way to organizing and establishing their own film departments and film programs.

Short workshops on film and video production also maintain their popularity, creating closely-knit networks and connections in the audiovisual production industries. Popular examples include the long-running Mowelfund Film Institute workshops, the Rebelde Film Camp, the Cinemalaya Institute (Basic Filmmaking, Producing), various CCP-led Workshops, and the Ricky Lee Scriptwriting Workshop. TESDA and some smaller colleges also offer short courses (Diploma Courses in 3D Animation, for example) geared towards a more practical skillset.

The continuous rising accessibility of film tools (ie, cameras, editing applications) has sent shockwaves to the bastions of industrial filmmaking. As it seems, film schools exist to safeguard a balance in the informal and formal practices of filmmaking.

That is, when filmmaking and the consumption of film becomes fully democratized (its first wave is in the consumption of “pirated” video), stockholders and compradors benefiting from multi-million peso “entertainment” film projects will lose their grip on the production of cinema. Because, in our privatized, for-those-who can-afford education setting, the investment in cinema (including film education) has to bear fruit by returning labor to the industry. If everyone can now be a filmmaker why is there a need to professionalize filmmakers and legitimize their filmmaking practice through degrees and diploma courses in film schools?

In short sight, what film school seems to do is serve as a fallback. What one lacks in creativity or criticality in film, he can augment with credentials (I studied here, I studied film). Or on the other hand, if things do not work out for one to be working in the film-related industries, he still maintains the qualification of having finished a four-year course. Instead of providing an avenue to develop filmmaking as scientific and liberating practice, film schools uphold filmmaking as a profession, such that finishing the course makes one a rightful film-practitioner with industry-standard skills.

Film school is only a symptom of a blatant malady in today’s education system—the system that rears professionally-oriented fodder to exploitatively ladderized industries that require submission and acceptance of the system in order to succeed. Questioning and dismantling film school not only entails breaking accepted notions in filmmaking and the pedagogy of film but, all the more, seeking to destroy the education system neoliberalism has set up for us: that which makes students mere products and workers for exploitative capitalist industries.

To what extent does the institution have a hand in proliferating exploitative film production practices? How does it become an arm that feeds the industry machine with unknowing practitioners? Or, with respect to the educated practitioner, what are the conditions and processes within the institution that make it acceptable to work and make a living out of abusive industries?

In Film School Values, a continuing series of articles for STRIKE II, the aim is to thoroughly discuss experiences, problems, and purposes of the film school system, and reevaluate its continuing necessity for the Philippine Film Industry. The series also seeks to place more attention on the practices and attitudes towards filmmaking which are engrained and begin in the film school.