The California Institute of the Arts. (Photo by Diane Ho)
California School of the Arts

California State Summer School for the Arts — A tough but rewarding experience

I came to the film department at the California State Summer School for the Arts hoping to learn how to film my own scripts. As a screenwriter, I wanted to make my own words fly off the page.

However, CSSSA was nothing as I expected. Instead of guiding your hand through the process, the teachers treated us as real college students.

They expected you to know how to use Adobe Premiere Pro, all their equipment and understand the fundamentals of film. If you didn’t know how, you were expected to figure it out.

The entire experience was quite tough for me as I have never considered myself to be a professional filmmaker. However, there was nothing to do, but dive right in.

I struggled tremendously during the first week, especially since I thought all my other classmates were better than me.

The first screening of our films were embarrassing and hard to sit through, but once it was over, I realized that I had made two films in just a week. Although they were terrible, at least I had two more films than the number I had before.

The second and third week was not as intimidating. I made some close connections to two of my teachers, and unlike what I suspected during the first week, they really wanted to help me succeed. I just had to ask.

I also made a small group of friends whose cinematography skills were unbelievably good, but their humility made me feel like I belonged. That week, I completed another two short films and I felt much more confident in my own skin, although my confidence in my filming skills were still lacking.

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By the fourth week, I was spending hours working on my thesis film and I was afraid of being made a complete failure during our final screening. However, once I had finished editing, I looked back at my previous weeks’ work and decided that my thesis film was the best film I had ever made.

Although my teachers still found many flaws in it and it was nothing compared to the rest of my peers, I felt a significant improvement. Without the amount of intensity and pressure from the film department, I wouldn’t have felt so proud of myself.

After graduating, I felt as if I could tackle anything. Even more so, I now consider myself to be a filmmaker.

Overall, I thought the program was a huge learning experience. My ability to film and my confidence in myself have greatly improved.

However, because I was an artist just starting to familiarize myself with film, I don’t think I had as much fun as I could have had. I was stressed and confused almost every day, because I didn’t feel the support and encouragement I needed from my peers or teachers. However, that just made graduating feel so much more personal and satisfying.