Jomo Fray survived the application process to tell future students, “Taste precedes technique.”
By: Jomo Fray
When I think back to how stressful it was applying to film school, I wish someone had reminded me that you aren’t expected to be a virtuosic filmmaker and taste precedes technique.
Getting accepted to film school doesn’t prove that you are a good or bad filmmaker. They are assessing what they imagine to be your potential as a filmmaker. The films in your portfolio don’t have to prove that you are Fellini’s spiritual heir in order to be worth an admissions officer’s time. They want to know who you are as an artist and the experiences that have informed the filmmaker you want to be. It’s called film school for a reason; it is meant to teach you how to hone the skills you need to become a great filmmaker. No one is expected to apply with a graduate thesis level film. If that were the case, what could they teach you and what could you learn?
Ira Glass, the host of This American Life, has a great piece in which he discusses getting into radio journalism. He reflects on how so many young artists end up quitting before they are able to become something special because they think they aren’t talented. In reality, they think their work is weak because the standards to which they hold themselves are informed by the work they love and work that is, generally speaking, more technically advanced than they are capable of emulating. These artists are inspired by people who have had the time to crystallize their style and furthermore possess the technical know-how to fully realize their aesthetics, philosophy, and approach. As young artists trying to cultivate our voice, we have not had the time or experience yet to bridge the gap between our style and technical craftsmanship. It is in this way one could say our taste precedes our technique.
When applying to film school, the best you can do is recall the experiences in your life and your development that have helped form your taste. Technique can be cultivated, but taste is a resource that requires far more personal reflection. This is not to devalue the importance of technique, but to say that at this point in our development it is a factor that should not keep us up at night. As an applicant and an artist, trust your taste and let that be your guiding light.
Jomo Fray graduated from Brown University and he intends to study cinematography at New York University beginning in the fall.