- Fasthand Simens.
So you think you've got what it takes to be the next Scorsese, Tarantino, or the two guys who made The Blair Witch Project? Let Dov S-S Simens be the judge of that. As the founder of the thirteen-year-old Hollywood Film Institute, the former line producer who "stumbled into teaching" offers a crash-course, two-day film school on industry basics like directing, scheduling, financing, and publicizing your independent film.
"You will [receive] more practical, realistic business information than if you spend four years at a theory-laden, UCLA/USC/NYU film school," says Simens, rattling off his infomercial-style spiel.
The course, which comes to town this weekend, includes tips on making and selling a low-budget movie, buying film stock efficiently, renting camera packages cheaply, and organizing a crew. So save that ninety-page dissertation on the sack scene in Nights of Cabiria for the pinochle party.
"Four-year film schools are wonderful for twenty-year-olds," says Simens. "I assume you're an adult, and I assume you have talent, so I don't do any motivational rah-rah speeches."
What Simens does have is a lot of bottom lines: "When you make a film, from beginning to end, you write about 38 bank checks," he explains, referring to the money a first-time filmmaker has to cough up. "And those are the 38 steps of filmmaking. Sooner or later, you've got to shut up and write a bank check.
"I focus not on the fantasy numbers that are taught at film schools, but how to squeeze four to five thousand dollars into making your first feature," he says. "Everybody walks out like the fog is lifted." And, yes, diplomas are issued.
Simens, who counts among graduates of his two-day school Spike Lee, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarantino, can be blunt when it comes to students' artsy-fartsy dreams. "This is a business," he notes. "This is not an art form. Stop thinking of it that way. Yes, it is art, but let's talk about the business of making the art financially successful."
Even a person clueless about filmmaking will walk out with some comprehension of the machinations of independent film, Simens contends.
"A person with a rudimentary understanding will now hone his or her skills and fill in the missing pieces they didn't get at film school," he adds. "They will be motivated to go forward. And I'll get the next Blair Witch coming out of Ohio." Michael Gallucci
The Hollywood Film Institute's Two-Day Film School with Dov S-S Simens takes place Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Cuyahoga Community College's Metro Campus. Admission is $289 (or $269 for Cleveland Filmmaker and Cleveland Film Society members). Call 216-623-3456.