Chennai’s film schools offer endless options.

There is a new generation of storytellers amid us and they are willing to go to great lengths to showcase the story in the right way.

There might be merely three government-run film schools (one each in Pune, New Delhi and Chennai) in the country, but the increasing demand for filmmaking courses conducted by private players reveals on how filmmaking is no longer the bastion of a few, but is meant for anyone who has a passion for cinema.

Cinematography, sound recording, script writing, camera work, audiography, editing — the list of options is endless and number of takers seems to be increasing every year. Nearly 10 film schools in Chennai, in addition to the MGR Government Films and Television Institute, offer these long-term and short-term courses. Says R. Sridharan, principal of the government college, “Many students are keen on visual communication courses because it gives them a direct entry to the world of films and television. The trend is such that anyone with a digital camera thinks he can make a movie but only those with passion actually succeed in making the good one.”

Among the privately-run film schools, the most popular are the Mindscreen Film Institute, started by cinematographer Rajiv Menon, and the L.V. Prasad Film and TV Academy.

While the Mindscreen Film Institute trains students on various aspects of filmmaking with specialisation in cinematography, the L V Prasad Film and TV Academy offers training in film processing and post-production services.

The infrastructure and facilities provided by some of these private schools are the major reason for their popularity, says M. Radhika who joined the academy after working in an ad agency for three years. “You need not become a filmmaker alone. You can get into any form of media or into the entertainment industry,” she adds. In fact, only a few of the students who come out of these colleges end up as filmmakers, with a majority of them branching out to various allied fields.

Many TV channels encourage young script-writers to send in their work thus opening up new avenues. But affordability remains one factor that restricts many students from entering this field. While government-run film schools charge only about Rs. 15,000 per annum for a three-year course, many private schools charge at least Rs 1.5 lakh for a six-month course.

“Getting into a government-run one institution is very difficult. They have very few seats,” says R. Gunasekakaran, an aspirant. And most of the courses are two or three years long. It might not be wise to invest so much time if you are not very sure of staying in the field,” he reasons.

The MGR institute, whose alumni include Suhasini and Rajiv Menon, attracts students from across Tamil Nadu, says Prof. Sridharan. “Of late, we have many students from Dharmapuri and Tirunelveli. Here, it is all about how you conceive and present a story. Unlike in the IT or hospitality industry, the pressure to speak fluently in English is not a problem here, which is why many Tamil-speaking students want to take up filmmaking. The technical skills are the determining factor here.”

Interestingly, many students of these schools have shifted from other careers. “We see a lot of people from the IT industry quitting their jobs to learn filmmaking. Many times, students take up engineering under parental pressure but those interested in cinema make this shift as soon as they earn some money,” says S. Ranjeeth Kumar, director, operators, Mindscreen Film Institute.

“No producer would want to invest in a fresh graduate. Hence, we ourselves ask the students to work under established directors and cinematographers for some time, before they start making their own film,” he adds.