Consequences of a brave step – My two semesters at the Budapest Film Academy (BFA)
As a master student at Eötvös Loránd University’s Film Studies Department I could gain a good insight of film theory and film history but only briefly did I learn about filmmaking in practice. I was interested in filmmaking, and I have been writing scripts already, but like other shy writers I wouldn’t dare to step up and be in the spotlight. I was afraid I am not good enough; my stories wouldn’t be interesting to anyone. On the other hand, I knew if I don’t try, I will never find out what I am capable of. That was when I saw a script writing scholarship application of the Budapest Film Academy (BFA) and I decided to take a brave step. I submitted for the autumn semester one of my scripts which I wrote earlier during the summer.
I had absolutely no worries; I couldn’t imagine the results could be positive for me. When the answer finally arrived I just couldn’t believe what I am reading. I got the scholarship and on the top of that, based on my submitted work, I got into the advanced screenwriting group. I was a little lost on my first script writing session but the atmosphere captured me from the very beginning. I have met with a lot of talented writers who pitched several interesting stories and characters during the lessons. My teachers were Jenő Hódi, Krisztina Goda, István Szabó, and András Bálint Kovács who showed us how to turn an idea into a script. We have learned the correct format of the script, the first important rule of screenwriting. We also learned that we need an interesting theme and a sympathetic protagonist to engage the audience. We got familiar with phrases like subtext, on the nose dialogue, master scene and pitch. We also learned how to write a subplot to make it inseparable from the main story.
The teachers gave me constructive criticism, so my script got into a better shape, my dialogues had more life, the turning points became more exciting and my characters became more complex. Basically the story itself gained more, and was aimed to tell it using the film language. At the end of the semester I had a lot more new information and I received my Budapest Film Academy certificate, but the real surprise came after that. I was chosen among the few, who can shoot their film with the support of the Hungarian National Film Fund. I couldn’t find any word I was so surprised, therefore I just jumped right into this exciting task ahead of me. This is how my next semester at the directing class at the Budapest Film Academy has begun.
Soon I have met with other BFA students, all of them talented, young professional filmmakers, from whom I have learned a lot. We started to prepare the production, created story boards, started with the casting process. The preparations themselves were a great experience and we became very good friends. I haven’t even noticed and the first day of the shooting has arrived. The characters and events which I wrote suddenly jumped off the paper and became alive. I also learned a lot during the shooting, such as improvisations make the dialogues livelier, or to adjust the script to the actors’ personalities and the parameters of the locations. Just like a tailor-made suit. During the three day shooting a brand new story shaped in front of my eyes, although it was the same what I have written, it seemed totally different though. I saw a real movie born which now waits in the edit room to become a short film.
In my year at Budapest Film Academy I have learnt a lot of new things, I have met with wonderful, talented people, but I definitely appreciate the help to find the braveness in my heart. Now, I am not afraid to give it a shot and try my best luck, and I will not put away any of my stories in the drawer.
Thank you for this opportunity and the experiences!
For beginners and pros
One summer at the second round of a screenwriting competition I was facing an incredibly difficult challenge: I had to pitch my idea to a professional jury in five minutes. Firstly, I asked the organizers to schedule my pitch in the morning. People are usually more awake and receptive at that time of the day, they are not bored yet. It is easier to win. I was preparing for the pitch for three weeks – I rehearsed it many times by myself, in front of my girlfriend too, and once in the studio. I also thought about what to answer to the potential questions after the pitch. That’s how I walked to the stage and maybe it wasn’t that awful at all. I have spent 20 minutes on the stage, because they swamped me with questions and I only had to think a lot about one of them. I started to believe I have a chance, that out of 15 I can get into the top five among qualifiers.
But it didn’t happen, I finished in sixth place. However I can’t say I have lost that day, because a man came up and congratulated me on my performance. It was Jenő Hódi. He looked in my eyes and said that I was awesome during my pitch. Weeks later he called me and asked if I would like to study in his school. I said: hell yeah! He offered one study program, but I liked the business approach of the Academy so I have bought another one in addition.
That’s how I got into the Budapest Film Academy. I met with a bunch of young, mostly amateur, few experienced, Hungarian and foreign filmmakers who only want one thing.
To make films. At any cost.
This was the epilogue as long as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, now the point. What made me choose the Academy over and over again?
When I first started attending the school I have already worked in some film productions. I had no illusions, I certainly didn’t know everything about the film business, but I was curious what new knowledge can they school offer. Now the question slightly changed: what can’t they teach?
You shouldn’t panic; even if you haven’t seen a camera in your life you will shortly learn the tricks of the trade. Since the lecturers (with the leadership of Jenő Hódi) quickly and efficiently explain the basics of screenwriting and directing. They always emphasize that the first thing you need is a good idea, the other elements come later. The three-act structure of movies, emotional aspects, character development and the rest. Then you can go home to write.
In the directing class you will quickly understand that you shouldn’t talk about films but you should start making them. We have pitch-trainings, film analysis and genre history classes. Moreover, Alexis Latham taught us how to work with actors, which were not only useful for learning the connection between the director and the actor but also helped to point out what makes a good chemistry between characters and how to build up tension in a scene.
At the same time they are scrupulously bugging everybody to make connection with students from other classes (producers, cinematographers, editors) to establish film crews and go outside and shoot in their free time. Since you can’t learn everything in the classroom. Not everybody can be Robert Rodriguez, filmmaking is teamwork. We got so many wise advice.
Guest lecturers pointed out other aspects of filmmaking. András Bálint Kovács not only shared his opinion about our script, but he also told us what would be the preferences of the Hungarian Film Fund when judging a film idea – what are the strong and weak points of the screenplay.
The Academy also brought us the director Nimród Antal for a private lecture, who opened up for us even more than at the Hungarian Film Fund event two days earlier. In a humble way, and with honesty he told us how he tries to survive in the Hollywood studio system, what sacrifices he had to make in his career and why should someone choose this profession or why not.
In the directing class well-known and acclaimed actors like Tibor Szervét and Sándor Csányi also shared their own experiences, told us what they expect from directors, what they need for a good performance and what ruins their work. This knowledge is valuable; if you listen carefully you can save yourself from many unpleasant situations in the future. A wise man learns from other people’s misfortunes.
My favorite guest lecturer was Krisztina Goda, a UCLA graduate, since her lectures were not only enjoyable to listen but were very practical as well, filled with useful information. She didn’t beat around the bush, she taught what are the tasks and responsibilities of the director and what skills are needed to become a successful filmmaker. She didn’t lie, honestly told us how much work, how many sacrifices are needed to get into the film business.
What ideas you might want to stick to, and when can you let things go. How to treat our crew and the producers. How make people understand that we are all in the same boat, we all want the same thing to happen. How to make a film idea attractive to investors. Advertising industry, film industry at home and abroad. She shared plenty of interesting stories, and helped us with lots of practical information.
There are a lot of film project in which BFA manages to get technical equipment, actors and professional film crews to participate, and many times even helps with the financing. Not to mention the advertisement campaigns in which we can are work. You shouldn’t assume it is for a small, local bakery or something, but huge companies such as MOL or Metropol.
Because there is a difference. I finally managed to get to the point of all this, which definitely makes the BFA one of a kind. That is the business approach of Jenő Hódi. He sticks to the idea that in his school not filmmaking is taught but the business of filmmaking. To learn how you shouldn’t starve to death as a filmmaker. That apart from self-expression you need to realize that the film market is larger abroad than in Hungary. That you can reach more than 200 thousand moviegoers with your film. To never settle for that much!
Dream big or go home – that could be the slogan of BFA. It is in English, since the training is in two languages. Both for beginners and pros.
Tibor Szervét’s lecture was very inspiring; he summarized well what is the role of the director and what are his/her various responsibilities. (Edina Mészáros)
The class was very interesting and pleasurable I enjoyed it very much. The way Jeno Hodi explained the three act structure was very interesting and the points he mentioned, made it look very simple and easy to understand. The most helpful lecture for me particularly was the class on making characters interesting, how to build a concept or story around an exciting character. (Barun Goswami)
The lecture held by Kriszta Goda, highlighted such connections and momentums in the film which we could have never came up with on our own in a coffee-drinking film analysis get-together with friends. (Kristóf Kantár)
Nimród Antal opened up to us and I think we couldn’t get a bigger present than that. It sounds like a cliché, but in the twelve years I spent in school I never learned as much as I have in this three hours, even though I was lucky to hear quite a few Hungarian and international experts of the film industry. (Stella Asmon)
Honestly I never thought I would learn so much in these 3 hours. It was enjoyable, but also very useful. A splendid experience! (Fruzsina Vadászi)
There was a great silence and rapt attention from the Hungarian students, which was only disturbed by the foreign student who wanted to know who entered the room. Koltai started to talk so naturally that the atmosphere became very informal, easy going. He started to tell the stories, and we listened. (Petra Hadusovzky)
We also learned important lessons about ourselves. People need a feeling of comfort to perform, the same with actors. It’s also the director’s task to create the proper environment for the actors. Alexis, as an actor knows this perfectly, and as a teacher he made us experience it ourselves. (Máté Porkoláb)
BFA again made good on its word yesterday, by inviting a guest who is not only a well-respected professional but a good teacher who can pass on his knowledge. Péter Miskolczi and Jenő Hódi (Head of BFA) were having a friendly chat, while answering most of the questions we did not dare to ask.
As a BFA scriptwriter it was very useful for me to have an insight into the working stages and responsibilities of producers and directors as well. I consider it essential to know more about my future collegues’ job. (Zsuzsanna Bak)
Laurie Hutzler equipped us with tools to create lively characters, with whom we can forward our emotions to the audience. I’m glad I could participate in the course as a student of Budapest Film Academy. (Viktória Szekér)
The creator of Fame, Angel Heart, Missisippi Burning and Evita gave us a taste of his preparing process, his work and art. At the end of the two-day seminar we want to write down everything as well. Just write, write and write! (Dorothy Lawrence)
As the student of the Budapest Film Academy I had the opportunity to participate as the first assistant director in the Sony commercial at the end of the Fall semester. It was exciting for me, because I finally had the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge into practice, and I was curious about how much I can help the director. (Zsófia Czigler)
We made a lot of short movies for exams, we got in lectures, theatre rehearsals, moreover, we visited Korda Filmpark. Great film crews formed and by that I found the people I would work with in the future. (Gábor Nagysolymosi)
In the full-crowded auditorium, I was looking forward to the beginning of the presentation with a great excitement. I looked around with satisfaction: the awaiting faces around me reflected the same feeling as I felt. Finally, I am between people like them, and I can hear about something, which always makes my heart beat faster! Those, who were late, however, took a seat slightly surprised, but it was worth every single minute, we had spent together. (Bettina Burkus)
The free lecture opened up such perspectives for me that I started understanding the complexity of filmmaking. As a future editor I will have to work together with other people to tell a story a together. Writing is not solely typing down a screenplay, but rewriting our story over and over. The last rewrite happens in the editing room.
I will certainly will remember that a good scene is like a good party. You arrive late, and leave early. One thing that does not apply for Budapest Film Academy classes. (Andrea Majzik)
It was great to study in a friendly environment, especially considering the interaction between the students and the professors. I am mostly interested in directing. The lecture of András Bálint Kovács was very interesting, since we already had an exam based on his textbook Analysis of Motion Pictures and I had the chance to revise that knowledge. (Ádám Kovács)
Jeno Hodi’s master classes in New Delhi
Attending Jeno Hodi’s lecture was a pleasure and enlightening in all aspects, especially him explaining the role of the various members of the film crew in the process of filmmaking, the three act structure, and the eight act structure for scriptwriting. Watching the movie Stand Up Guys, pausing the film wherever needed, explaining to us and asking questions from the students as to why the characters did something and what effect it had on the audience, how the script rises and falls. All in all I just loved his splendid classes and his teaching method. Always looked forward to attending them and participating in it. It was pure, pure joy to sit there and watch him teach and learn from him. I would love to attend more of his classes. (Amaan Mehar)
Very practical and excellent lecture from Jeno Hodi. I learnt an ample in the way he explained shots, angles, focus and lenses usage from the film “Stand Up Guys”. I will be glad to have him teach us further. It was really nice having him in our institution. (Jerry Douglas)
The class was very interesting and pleasurable I enjoyed it very much. The way Jeno Hodi explained the three act structure was very interesting and the points he mentioned, made it look very simple and easy to understand. The most helpful lecture for me particularly was the class on making characters interesting, how to build a concept or story around an exciting character. His example of a boxer how he trains to make both of his hands to become equally strong will always stay with me. It is one of those examples that you always remember and even use it in your writing. The best part was all through the classes we had, when he kept on talking about some of my favourite films, and during the screening of the movies how he was speaking about the various shots of the movies. I would like to say thank you sir, and hope you visit us and we get to learn from you more… (Barun Goswami)
It was a very wonderful experience having your class in all the aspects, either script writing or how to pitch. I have attended two classes of yours which have brought a lot of knowledge and significance in my further studies. I liked the way you changed the three act structure to eight short films method, and the way you taught about elevator pitching. I hope we’ll have some more classes of yours in the future. (Himanshu Mutreja)
It was a pleasure and privilege to take your master class. Your approach to break down of each scene was systematic and practical. As the structure of our study has been more theoretical, the contrast of your approach created a necessary counter-balance. Very informative was your structure of 8 short films. As my taste and direction in film is for the less commercial, your approach to cinema is actually an interesting structure for me to work against, to break from it. (Pamela Slass )
It was a pleasure attending the classes hosted by Jeno Hodi. We had the screening of the film, ‘Stand Up Guys’ for analysis on Hollywood cinema. He also had a master class where he discussed with us about the elevator pitch as well as script breakdown and the basic structure of the screenplay. It would be highly beneficial and honourable for us to attend further classes from him in near future. (Subhasish Das)
It was my privilege that I have attended the class from director Jeno Hodi. In just a few classes he took us through the whole process of filmmaking and gave me the insight to watch films from the filmmaker’s point of view. (Ronnie Robinson)
It was an awesome experience; he has a very frank in his approach towards to students and the movies he talked about. Explained everything in a very direct manner and the way a filmmaker should think, and it is now much clearer to me. I would love to have more sessions like these. (Avneesh Singh Jaswal )
Mr. Jeno Hodi had 3 classes with us and during those classes he gave us a whole new perspective, a whole new vision to filmmaking. He is very straight forward in his theories and his explanations and it was pleasure learning from him. (Viran Chauhan)
Internship at the Budapest Film Academy
I often hear negative opinions about working as an intern. Most who apply for an internship are still attend a university or have just got their diploma. In theory, the purpose of these applications is for young people and students to gain experience in a specific field of work. A few months ago I was discouraged and a little bit frightened judging my acquaintances and friends stories about these jobs.
But Budapest Film Academy gave me a whole new perspective on this topic. First of all I have to mention, that if you work as an intern in the BFA office, you are given in exchange a practical film course, and there’s a wide variety of classes from where you can choose. This seemed a very suitable offer for me. I remember clearly, that one of my dear friends noticed me about this scholarship on the ELTE BTK University’s webpage. I chose the directing course (for my surprise, they called me back from the office in few days) and my career began in the BFA office with Jenő Hódi’s leadership and also Romney’s, his dog’s companionship.
It’s very hard for me to tell in a nutshell about the time spent and the experiences gathered here. This was because every morning, after I drank my coffee, a wide range of various and exciting assignments were awaiting me. If I really have to sum up a conclusion, I have to say that I really felt like an insider from the very first day, because I got to know what kind of complex processes and strategies are beneath the filmmaking industry.
I knew, that I wasn’t a “computer freak”, that was the reason why I kept thinking, that I wasn’t suitable for an office job. But after a while I was surprised, because I wasn’t given routine, dull tasks to complete. I had the chance to take part and work on those aspects of film organizing, which I was interested in. I also learnt a lot about the film producing business’ inside strategies, not to mention the creative parts of these assignments. This was topped by the fact that I wasn’t working in a dull atmosphere, because my intern colleagues were very friendly and communicative. So the days passed in a great mood. Romney, the dog couldn’t be a missing member of the group. Between letter writing and script reading he came with his toy in his mouth. This meant that he demanded for you to take few minute breaks and play with him.
In addition I think that the internship, which Budapest Film Academy has to offer worth a shot, if you really are interested in filmmaking and the creative strategies beneath this process. Furthermore, besides gaining experience I can’t stop mentioning, that as a compensation for your working activity you can choose a BFA course. This is quite rare; you don’t find this in every advertisement or job offer. I would like to address this short summary for those who are thinking about applying for the BFA internship: Don’t have preconceptions before you even try out the job, and don’t be afraid to check it out! It’s worth it!
Budapest Film Acacdemy
Behind-the-scenes of the BFA office
I stumbled upon the advertisement of the Budapest Film Academy on the internet by accident in which they were looking for a marketing intern. Ever since I was a kid I was interested in filmmaking so I applied for the internship immediately, and in a day or two they answered me and asked me to come in for a trial day. The atmosphere in the office is pleasant and friendly, and backed up by Romney, Jenő Hódi’s cute dog, who sweeps everybody off their feet (sometimes literally 🙂 ). The number of the interns at the office changes every day, and the tasks are shared among us.
I would like to gain practice in the field of marketing and film here, and for this, every opportunity is given, after all there are more productions afoot, with the contribution of notable professionals. In the last couple of days, a commercial for Men’s Health magazine was shot, in which the students of BFA could try out themselves. That is why I cannot wait to start to take a course in the spring semester, because for my biggest pleasure, I was offered a course in exchange for working here. The most appealing attitude of the BFA is that they pay attention to the practical training and they give opportunities to the current and graduated students. Until then, I have to make a decision about which course to take, because there is a great variety (director, scriptwriter, producer, actor, cameraman, editor, sound-engineer), and I am interested in all of them.
Now everybody is enthusiastic about an American-Hungarian coproduction which starts in the spring semester. I am so glad that I will be able to see the making of a film up close and personal, since until now I could only see what the bystanders behind the cordons saw from a shooting. The film will be the final part of “The Mark” trilogy, which will be directed by the American director, James Chankin and produced by Jenő Hódi.
James Chankin frequently comes to the BFA office to discuss the budget, and last time I had the chance to meet him. After our few minutes chat, I can say only good things about him; he is a very kind man and always has a smile on his face. The American actors are TBA, however, from the Hungarian cast, Iván Kamarás will be the leading actor, who also visited the office, unfortunately, I was not here that day, but hopefully I will have the luck to meet him next time he comes. Apart from them, production designers, cameramen, and visual effects artists come here to discuss the details of the film which starts during the spring semester and takes place in Budapest and in its region. This will surely give us a lot of work, but after the holiday season, we will be expecting to have an insight into the details of the making of the film, because I am sure that we will gain knowledge and professional experience.
Edit Tóth, intern
The Spring semester at Budapest Film Academy is coming to its end. Although we stop for only a short summer holiday, it is time to look back and reflect on the past couple of weeks. What did I expect? What did I get? What is the next step?
I did not know a thing about scriptwriting. I have a writer past, but if you are a mechanic, it does matter if you work with cars or ships. I am a writer but not a scriptwriter. This is a profession and I wanted to become a professional.
The school had everything that I needed to reach my goal: all the equipments, all the teaching staff; people who can pass on their knowledge to their students. I learnt how my characters become individuals. It was also a self-study. I have to know myself better. I have to know the people around me to witness what stories they are telling in order to make a character authentic.
I was there when my classmates gave birth to their characters. They were born once, twice, or a hundred times; they came to existence to change or reborn. When they were formed and fixed, there were more and more chairs in the room. These figures became humans.
As an intern at Budapest Film Academy I could make some more skills of my own that are essential in becoming a business person. I learnt what to say if I am looking for a crew and a producer. I learnt the tricks of business talk. I developed a skill to avoid high-structured, complicated sentences. There is no need to tell the tales that we have in mind. That’s not the reality and reality comes first. A script is simply black and white, it is to be colored and decorated throughout the process of filmmaking. That is the task of a scriptwriter: to overcome magic and show reality. Unless you get close to reality you cannot reach magic.
What is coming next? There is no need to hurry. It’s time to stop for a moment, what’s more, to take a step backwards, to process what we have learnt so far. Now we can explode our knowledge, cut it into small pieces then give it another shape. Take the script and work. Rewrite, restructure, reorganize. Until it is ready. Not in the mind, but for real.
Thanks for all!!
Budapest Film Academy