February 19, 1998
Film School in Two Days
Film School in Two Days
In one weekend instead of four years, Dov S-S Simensteaches future Hollywood hyphenators how to make their movies anddeals
By William Yelles, Calendar Editor
Dov S-S Simens teaches students the basics offilmmaking and marketing at his weekend seminar, below.
Chances are, like most people, you've got an ideafor a blockbuster motion picture playing in your head. The troubleis, you don't even know how to buy film. That's where Dov S-S Simenssteps in.
"Ideas are like cancer," he says during another ofhis sold-out seminars at a Hollywood soundstage. They will keepeating away at you unless you act on them."Only beginners who nevercome close to beginning keep masturbating on ideas."
The blunt outlook and in-your-face language isexactly what aspiring film hyphenators have come here for. Simens'film-school crash course crams in everything he thinks his studentswill need to know about movie and deal making, distilling four yearsworth of most training programs into a single weekend.
It is an offering of the Hollywood Film Institute,which Simens founded six years ago, after his no-nonsense approach tohow to make a feature film won him fans at seminars from New York toHawaii. Then, teaching was only a part-time gig, in between lineproducer duties for the master of schlock-on-a-budget, Roger Corman."I stumbled into it, first as a business," he says. "Then I realizedhow much I love teaching, and that there was nobody with streetexperience doing it."
Among Simens' experiences before moving toHollywood 15 years ago was his service as an officer in the GreenBerets during the height of the Vietnam War. "It prepared me how tobe assertive, aggressive, how to go for it."
Alumni of his Industry assertiveness traininginclude a who's who of independent cinema: Quentin Tarantino, SpikeLee, Ed Burns of "Brothers McMullen" fame, Kevin Smith ("Clerks,""Chasing Amy"), Robert Rodriguez, and Mark Archer, producer of lastyear's indie favorite, "In the Company of Men," just to name afew.
Day 1 of the seminar consists of how to actuallymake the movie, from buying the film stock through shooting andediting, to a final print. Simens teaches that this can be done in nomore than 38 steps, each stage requiring a check to be written. "I'mtalking to you about making films, but doing it from the Jewish pointof view: writing checks," he says, tongue firmly in cheek.
But, first, he must teach his students that Mr.Hotshot Executive isn't waiting for them to rescue his studio. "Weare not a filmmaking industry, but a film-marketing industry," heinstructs, noting that advertising and promotion usually cost two tofive times as much as a film's actual production.
Nine hours later, he has taught everything fromdolly manufacturers to the five most important types of productioninsurance. Bright and early the next morning, everyone will