You Can Be The Next Coppola, Lucas or Spielberg!

March 17, 2014 6:00 AM

(credit: PIERRE ANDRIEU/AFP/Getty Images)

185410379 You Can Be The Next Coppola, Lucas or Spielberg!(credit: PIERRE ANDRIEU/AFP/Getty Images)


Best Filmmaking Classes And Workshops In The Bay Area


The heritage of San Francisco filmmaking includes the intersection between cameras and computers. See 26 of Walt’s record-breaking 32 Oscar statuettes on permanent display at the Presidio’s Walt Disney Family Museum. Consider the 27 Academy Awards to Pixar Animation Studios. The Bay Area is a breeding ground for innovation and excellence in filmmaking, as in so many fields. These days, we must include new media formats in any discussion of film school. The choice is yours.

San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 771-7020

Look at it this way: “New approaches to film and video are not just studied at SFAI — they are born here.” The heritage is one of artists with a cultural vision for the West using seeds they planted in 1871. About 75 years later, Ansel Adams’ groundbreaking photography department expanded into film in 1947 under the guidance of distinguished filmmaker Sydney Peterson. The envelope was pushed around the conference table — by Frank Lloyd Wright, Marcel Duchamp, Gregory Bateson — leaving a legacy of always exploring art’s new frontiers. The roster of faculty, students and alumni through the decades is an impressive one. Check out the latest for thinkers and makers from the film program headed by Christopher R. Coppola, founder of Project Accessible Hollywood.

Santa Rosa Junior College – 3D Animation Program
1501 Mendocino Ave.
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 527-4685

Lights, action, computers, roll ’em! Go for an associate degree or a certificate of achievement and choose from the Santa Rosa or Petaluma campus. Take instruction at a state-of-the art production studio. Study the classical mechanics of movement to create expressive performances with 3D characters combining live action footage with computer imagery using supplemental software. And that’s just one part of the curriculum. According to the program’s lead instructor Clay Atchison, “We’re still teaching the animation principles of Walt Disney because they are just as applicable today as they were in the 30s and 40s.” When you connect the dots from Walt Disney to the most modern methods, the possibilities are mind-boggling.

San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking
925 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 824-7000

From a one-day introduction course to a 15-month program, there are six different courses to follow. Whether it’s documentary, filmmaking or digital that appeals, a free open house is the best way to learn more. This is a small international school with a vision for excellence and a strategy for launching your career in the filmmaking industry. Touting exit results of a job placement rate at 91 percent, San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking is serious about helping you fulfill your ambitions.

512px clay movie theatre You Can Be The Next Coppola, Lucas or Spielberg!

San Francisco’s Clay Theatre (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

San Francisco Film Society
Education Program
39 Mesa St., Suite 110
San Francisco, CA 94129
(415) 561-5040

The folks who run the longest-running film festival in America, the San Francisco International Film Festival, also conduct outreach into the city’s communities to connect with the development, understanding, appreciation and aspirations of young people around film. Through youth education programs such as filmmakers in the classroom, schools at the festival, screenings at schools and the art and science of Lucasfilm, these forums have already reached 95,000 Bay Area schoolchildren and 3,000 teachers from more than 350 educational institutions. Other programs include internships, artist-in-residence series and the Young Filmmakers Camp. Find out what you can do to help or to benefit. The 57th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival is April 24, 2014 through May 8, 2014.

Stanford University – M.F.A. Documentary Film
Department of Art & Art History
435 Lasuen Mall
Stanford, CA 94305
(650) 723-3404

Prepare yourself to be in the spotlight. Stanford’s Department of Art & Art History offers only eight students per year admission to the two-year Masters in Film and Media Studies. Named to 2013’s top 25 film schools by The Hollywood Reporter, it’s full time and it’s full on. Students receive an historical, theoretical and critical framework of the moving image while tackling the practical skills for producing non-fiction film and video. The curriculum includes individual production and collaboration on projects with assigned crews. Younger applicants can have a look at the B.A. in Film and Media Studies.

My aniMotion
868 Kearney St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
(510) 417-0040

Are you into visual special effects? It’s a fast-changing field related to film, game development and short animations. Graphic and IT expert Julius Sanchez has re-invented marker-less motion capture, allowing for movement of the human body to be tracked and transferred to 3D character mesh without the restriction of a body suit. Students need intermediate to advanced skills with 3D software packages such as Maya, 3D Studio or MotionBuilder for this workshop, which explains and demonstrates the pipeline of 3D modeling, rigging, skinning and applying motion-captured data to 3D character models. Does it sound technical and amazing? It is.

wdfm You Can Be The Next Coppola, Lucas or Spielberg!

Walt Disney Family Museum (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

The Walt Disney Family Museum
104 Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94129
(415) 345-6800

The Walt Disney Family Museum is neatly tucked away in an 1890s former barracks beyond the grassy lawn overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco’s Presidio. Opened in 2009, it’s a must-see for anyone interested in the treasure trove of lessons and work left behind by the forward-thinking “Showman of the World.” Students and parents of students interested in film and animation might take note of the classes, workshops and summer camps taught at the museum. After all, Walt got his start scribbling long before he came up with the multi-plane camera: one of the three original surviving cameras is on display, as are some of Walt’s childhood drawings among so many fascinating, original artifacts.

Laurie JM Farr is a freelance writer covering all things in her adopted San Francisco. A dedicated urbanite, she’s a transplanted New Yorker by way of a couple of decades in London as a hotel sales and marketing manager. Follow her work on @ReferencePlease, USA Today, Yahoo! and on

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