https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjRH7isl8x4

On this week’s episode, I talk about my thoughts on going to Film School. We also talk about what some industry insiders think about this and whether or not it helps your career. Tune in for much more!

Show Notes

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Autogenerated Transcript

Michael Jamin:
Because I don’t want to make it harder for my, when I’m working in a writer’s room, I don’t want to make it harder for myself. I want to make it simple for me to think about these problems. So I don’t want to make it harder. The job is hard enough as it is. Why make it harder? Make it simpler. You’re telling a story, it’s not heart surgery. You’re listening to screenwriters. Need to hear this with Michael Jamin. Hey everybody, welcome back. I’m Michael Jamin. I’m here with Phil Hudson and today we’re answering the question, or at least we’re asking it. Who knows if we’ll have an answer? Should I go to film school? I get this one a lot. Let’s talk about it. Well first of all, Phil, you might be better than me answering because you actually went to film school. Where’d you go?

Phil Hudson:
I went to Santa Fe University of Art and Design and I got a bachelor’s, a fine arts in film story development from a film school

Michael Jamin:
There. How many years is that degree?

Phil Hudson:
It’s a four year degree. Took me, oh my

Michael Jamin:
God,

Phil Hudson:
It’s a bachelor’s program. So it wasn’t like master’s an n, NYU U Master’s in film. It was a bachelor’s degree. And I remember when I was contemplating going, I had just really met you. I’d been working with your wife for a while and I asked you, should I go there or should I go to Hollywood? And you said, well, I don’t know how valuable film school is outside of the network. You’ll build there, but the work’s here, so that’s a personal choice. And then you said, well, at least you’ll be able to teach college. And I said, well, I don’t know if I will because it won’t have a master’s. And you’re like, oh no.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Well how much did that degree cost? Not necessarily you, but most people.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, so the school was $30,000 a year, so it’s $120,000 to get a four year degree. And I think at the time the average student would take about five years to get a bachelor’s degree. So it actually, it would be $150,000 for

Michael Jamin:
That degree. I just Googled U S C film school and it’s 53,000 a year. And I dunno if it’s two or three years, but either way it’s enough to give you heart palpitations.

Phil Hudson:
To put this into perspective, my brother, he’s a lawyer, went to law school in Idaho and he’s a lawyer in Montana where he passed the bar and I think his degree cost him $120,000 to be a lawyer.

Michael Jamin:
To be a lawyer. And you can immediately start earning that back the minute you passed the

Phil Hudson:
Bar. Oh, he’s making more money per hour than I am now. He went, I mean he really took his time and now he was scraping by living on student loans, building up debt to get through film school with a family. I mean he’s building five to six billable hours per day at $200 an hour. He is making more in a day than I make as a PA

Michael Jamin:
On. Yeah, right. But film school, so should people go to film school? Here’s the thing, you’re going to graduate with a lot of debt and we don’t know when or if you’ll ever pay that off. As far as I can tell.

Phil Hudson:
I can be transparent on that too. I had a Robert Redford scholarship and a talent scholarship, so my cost all in, aside from what I paid, I have $40,000 in student loans from school and my school closed down. It doesn’t exist anymore.

Michael Jamin:
So do you have to pay back your loan then? I

Phil Hudson:
Do.

Michael Jamin:
You do. Even though, who’s it going to? They don’t have school.

Phil Hudson:
The federal government loaned me the money and then paid the school. And that is something I can never get rid of. It’s you can’t file bankruptcy on it. It lives with you till death. You will always owe that money unless you pay it back. The other side of this is there is a way that I could challenge that and say, well, my school’s gone because the school actually never sent me my diploma. So I walked, I have the itinerary, the photos, the whole thing, but I never got my diploma from the school. And there’s a process to go get it through the parent organization laureate to go get that, but it’s a bit of a pain in the butt. And they messed up my transcripts because I did that four year program in two and a half years. So I really expedited things. I saw them writing on the wall that it was going to shut down so I could challenge it and I could get that waived and then I would lose my degree. So I’ve wasted two and a half years, so it’s not really worth fighting to me. I’d rather have the degree. So I’ve just got to find the time to go fight that other battle for you.

Michael Jamin:
Well, just so people know, I’ve worked in TV for a long time, 27 years, and most of the writers that I work, if you want to be a screenwriter, very, very few actually went to film school. I was at a party a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine who told me he went to film school and I’ve worked with him for many years. He’s like, you went to film school. It just doesn’t come up. And when you get hired for, no one’s going to ask you to see your degree. No one caress what your G p A was in film school. No one caress if you went or you didn’t go. All they care is can you put the words in the page? That comp compelled people to turn to the next page. And you don’t need just the fact that you have a degree or even an M F A in creative writing or whatever. The degree is worthless. The knowledge that you gain might be worth something might depending on who’s teaching it to you. And I think that is more dependent on not necessarily the school or the program, but who’s teaching that semester, who did they get? Often these are adjuncts and sometimes the adjuncts are working screenwriters who have a break in their schedule and want to teach. And you may find one that’s great, but these adjuncts don’t get paid a lot of money. So it’s not what I mean a lot of money. I’m talking about

Phil Hudson:
A couple hundred bucks a month.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I mean the people I’ve talked to for a semester, maybe they make $4,000. It’s not a lot of money, so they’re not doing it for the money. And it’s not a long-term career option when you’re only making four grand for a semester. It’s ridiculous. So it just depends on who they got that semester. You may get somebody great, you may not. So the knowledge you get may be fantastic, but again, it’s a trade school you’re getting, if you want to be a filmmaker, do you want to learn editing? Do you want to learn lighting or maybe, but as a screenwriter, no, you’ll learn that in a million other things. There are way less expensive options, including our course that we offer that will teach you probably more in that area of specialty in the writing aspect. But I don’t teach lighting

Phil Hudson:
And I decided to go because I was always a bit more interested in being an ourour, shooting, writing, directing, producing, editing, just kind of understanding the full gamut. I also have a bit of a control need. I need to be able to understand, and this comes from being in the tech space where I’d have engineers telling me something was going to take three weeks to get done, and then you learn how to code it and you realize they’re just milking the clock. And so it comes from I’d like to understand the full process so I can better work within that process and hold people a little bit more accountable from a leadership perspective. But yeah, that’s smart. Smart. And your note on film school is interesting too. On the writing side, no one cares on the production side. I’ve actually had conversations with people who roll their eyes when they hear you into film school.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, really? People, producers, you mean

Phil Hudson:
Art directors?

Michael Jamin:
Why did

Phil Hudson:
They roll their every department?

Michael Jamin:
Why did they roll their eyes?

Phil Hudson:
I dealt with this when I was a missionary. When you’re a missionary, you’ve been out doing this stuff for six months and then you’re asked to train somebody new. That guy’s coming from a place where they taught them how to be a missionary, but learning how to be a missionary versus being a missionary, just different things. Learning how to make a film and learning how to do a setup versus how a set actually runs. They’re different things. The education may be correct, but the environment changes things. And so without fail, people who come in who said, I went to film school, think they know how to do it, think they know better than their superiors and it creates conflict because those people think they’re better than the people teaching them.

Michael Jamin:
Phil, we didn’t have this conversation off the air. So just so you know, I worked with a producer on one of my TV shows, the line producer, he was the producer and he said the same exact thing. He said that when he hires PAs for the show and most of the PAs come out of film school, whatever, a hundred thousand in debt, he goes, I have to untrain them. I have to unlearn them everything they learned because they think they know and it’s just not how it works. And I was like, really? He goes, yep, that’s how he goes. He doesn’t prioritize hiring film students. He just as well hired someone who’s not a film school student, have them learn on the job and learn instead of being winding up a hundred thousand in debt, they get paid. Although not a lot, but they get paid to learn.

Phil Hudson:
No, you get paid. I always described it, and I need this too, because when I moved to LA I was 31 and I’d already had a very successful corporate career and I could have pursued that career. When I was in college, I got prospected to go be a chief marketing officer at a bunch of startups in San Francisco paying way more money than I make now. And I turned ’em down because I was way more passionate about this thing I want to do in film. But I always described it to people like I knew, I knew I was going to get coffee for people. I knew it was a lot of yes sir, no, yes sir, no ma’am. However much you need, what can I do? Because it really feels to me like it’s the apprenticeship model out here. This is a trade where you learn under someone else who has done it and you not only learn how to do it by the book, but you learn all the tips and tricks and hacks. They had to figure out that were passed down to them as a lineage from the people that taught them who learned it from the guy who was running around with the horses in 1908.

Michael Jamin:
So another thing that you might get from film school. So in other words, let’s break it down. Okay, the diploma is not worth anything, but the knowledge you might get, especially in terms of screenwriting, might be valuable. Just totally depends, but you can spend a lot less on it. You might get context depending on where you go, depending on your graduating class. And if you are willing to stay in contact, if you stay in contact with your people, if you’re friends with them, if you’re not, those contacts are worth, your graduating class is worthless if you don’t know the members of your graduating class. And like I said, it’s an expensive venture and it didn’t help you get, okay. So when you got your first PA job, did they ask if you went to film school?

Phil Hudson:
No, I think in fact when I interviewed it was probably one of those situations where I was disqualified because of it. Oh, really? Because in the interview it was for Brett and link’s buddy system. You got me the interview, you told me I can get you the interview, I can’t get you the job. You got her on the job. And I showed up and I disqualified myself by telling them I wanted to be a writer. That’s really what disqualified me. And then, yeah, no one has asked me once, not a single person has ever asked me if I went to film school.

Michael Jamin:
And so I had to

Phil Hudson:
Bring it up once or twice out of defense because someone was trying to belittle. This is like I ran into a really toxic person in her season of Tacoma Tea recently, and that person was belittling me by trying to explain to me things and I had to say, yeah, I learned that in film school. And then she looked at me and was like, yeah, I went to film school too. I understand. I know how to calculate it. I get it.

Michael Jamin:
But there are things in terms of screenwriting that you did not learn in film school.

Phil Hudson:
Oh man. And this is no knock on anybody. You talk about good professors and bad professors. We had an adjunct professor named Ed Kamara, and he’s a legend. He wrote Lady Hawk, which was a huge hit in the eighties. He wrote the Bruce Lee movie. He has actual credits under his belt, retired lives in Santa Fe, and he would come and teach one class per year. And it was intermediate storytelling and I got way more out of that class than I did any of my other writing classes because he was telling you, here’s how you write a screenplay. And we had to write a screenplay to get credit in the class. But compare that to my first class and nothing against the professor, but we spent four weeks learning audio visual format for PSAs, and then we learned how to use Celtics because he wrote the book on Celtics and we had to buy the book on Celtics for his course.
It was a lot of stuff. And then I had this really interesting moment we’ve talked about in the podcast, but this is a real thing that happened to me. He asked the room, we finally got into story and structure. He asked the room, what’s the definition of a story? And I just perked up and I was like, I know this because it’s literally the first thing you had taught me via an email. He asked me that question and I looked around the room and people raising their hands and people are getting it wrong. And I just said, it’s a hero overcoming an obstacle to achieve a goal. And the teacher turned around and changed his slides because he didn’t have that definition. So yeah, I’ve learned way more, I would say outside of film school, about screenwriting through you and the stuff you’ve taught me also from just sitting down and writing, the real benefit for me was that it forced me to write,

Michael Jamin:
But also you can build and if you want to talk about your graduating class since I brought it up, but you can build your community outside of, you don’t need to go to film school to build a community of people, of like-minded people who want what you want, which is to become either filmmakers or screenwriter, whatever it is. But it’s like you can build a community, especially online because you don’t need to do that now. So much about the world has changed with the internet and social media so much. It’s changed so rapidly that, but I think so many people are still stuck in the old model thinking, well no, this is how it has to be done, myself included as well. I sometimes feel that when it doesn’t, the world is changing.

Phil Hudson:
We can talk about generative AI and all of those things because pretty steeped in those. I sent you a bunch of guides yesterday about how to do some content on chat G P T and stuff, but tool, like you said, technology has just changed things. MySpace was a thing when I was in high school and Facebook was brand new when I got off my mission in 2008, and I barely, I had to figure out how to use that, but YouTube wasn’t a thing. I remember sitting in my first class in film school and one of the assignments was, I want you to write down on a piece of paper, who is the filmmaker that inspired you to be a filmmaker when you were like 12 years old? And then he said, if you were inspired by a YouTuber, come talk to me. I have a different assignment for you. And I was like, what? YouTube was invented in 2005. I graduated in oh four, right? It’s just text change things. So I agree with you on that. But in terms of your network and growing a network, my network in my film school, I went to school with a bunch of really passionate people about film, are way more technically savvy than I am. Could make a picture out of a camera I can’t even imagine because they just had access to better technology than I did. They were much younger than me,

Michael Jamin:
But

Phil Hudson:
I’ve found most of ’em didn’t understand story at all. And the ones who did, there’s a small group of us who made it to la. Out of that group of people, there’s like four of them still here. One is working at an agency, one is in the W G A and writes on Selena. She’s amazing. You should go check out Selena Blank on her names Alexandra, but it’ll come up to me. And then there’s one guy who was an announcer, really put in a lot of effort making these happen. And now he’s a head of creative development at a pretty well-known studio. That’s it. That’s really it. I’ve got a couple of friends who still live in la, but they’re not doing anything in the industry writing related. They’re doing the visual effects and things, but they all want to be writers, directors. That’s what they did. But the group that I think I associate the most with is actually your group from the course.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. You associate meaning making connections with

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean prior to that, obviously I know people on set. I need people on set. We trade scripts. We kind of have those things because working with people and then you learn, everybody wants to be a writer. Everybody wants to be a director. Not everybody. There are some people who are like, I love lighting and I love camera and that’s what I want to do. But a lot of people want to be writers and directors. And so you can meet a lot of like-minded people that way. They’re the events and things in LA that you can go to networking events. There’s social media meetups now there’s Zoom meetups with people. But your group, I want to highlight because the value of that group to me is these are people who’ve invested in themselves to learn from a professional who knows how to do it.
And we are all sitting down in this group, and it’s a group of people who are highly motivated. They’re taking it very seriously. They understand the fundamentals the same way that we all do. And then now we’re slowly lifting each other up to become better. And there’s new people joining every month, and those people are jumping into this ecosystem, but very proactive. We trade notes with those people. The notes are way better. I mean, those are my peers. One comes into town and we meet up, we go pick it with him and Warner Brothers, he comes to my house, he eats food in my home. That’s Dave Crossman we talk about all the time. But lots of people in the LA area that we meet up with and do those things. That’s the networking that really matters.

Michael Jamin:
So just to be clear, I have a screenwriting course and that comes with a private Facebook group. That’s what you’re talking about. And what I see, it’s interesting. I am a member of some public Facebook groups screenwriting, and I don’t go there. I don’t know why I’m in there, but I don’t go there. They’re dark, they’re dark places. People are mean, they talk shit. They don’t know what they’re talking about. It is just toxic. But that’s definitely not the sense in our group, which is very much more supportive, not, and not only that, we haven’t even talked about this film, but someone, I think it was Crossman in the group, decided to, Hey, should we do a film, a screenwriting contest? Film

Phil Hudson:
Festival. A film

Michael Jamin:
Festival? And so I was like, that’s fun. That’s a good idea.

Phil Hudson:
You told them to do it on a podcast. You said, you were talking about on the podcast you said, and not crossword, but you said, you know what I think our group needs to do? They need to just do a thing where they can exhibit the stuff they’re working on and then someone did it,

Michael Jamin:
Someone took the initiative to do it, and I’m all for it. I’m not involved in it, but I’m all for it. I’m like, that’s a great idea. And it just helps. First of all, it raises everyone’s profile in the group with other, amongst themselves, but also that’ll spread. I mean, they do this and one of these things does well, if everyone agree on, Hey, this movie’s really good, or the screenplays, I don’t even know, is it a movie or is it a screenplay? It’s

Phil Hudson:
Short. It’s produced stuff. So it’s taking your content and then producing it as a short,

Michael Jamin:
Right?

Phil Hudson:
So Imagine Festival,

Michael Jamin:
Imagine the top three entrants. Everyone agrees, these are the three favorite that will have legs that people will talk about that they’ll share that outside of the group. They’ll say, I mean, I don’t see a downside to this. All I see is upside. And I was, I was actually thinking about what stopped them from doing this two years ago. And the answer, and I came up with the answer and the answer was, one, someone felt like, well, this is a lot of work, which I get it. It’s not a lot, but it’s work to organize this. And then the second was probably, they’re probably thinking, well, who am I to do this? Who am I to be the person? What am I? I’m just a person. Why should am I to say I’m capable? Well, why are you not capable? Who are you not to be the person you’re just as good as anybody else? What’s the problem? But it’s overcoming that little mental barrier that you created for yourself thinking, who am I to make a film a contest? Well, you’re you. That’s who you are now. You’re the guy, now you’re the guy, the woman creating this contest and raising your profile in the process, which is only a good thing. So it’s only good for the winners or the contestants. It’s good for the people who are involved in doing this.

Phil Hudson:
And we’ve talked about it too, the proactiveness in that group of people, they have reading groups and that’s booked out for six months where they know for every week who’s reading these scripts. They’re exchanging notes. They do pitch fest. They bring in people outside of the group, professionals that they know. They shared their network with you to hear you pitch things. Right? Wow. Yeah. It’s nothing but

Michael Jamin:
Good for them. I mean, seriously, I’m not organizing this. They’re being proactive, which is what I encourage you to do. Control put, this is your destiny. This is your fate. You got to make these opportunities for yourself. And it’s only good, good things to be the person, even if you’re just a connector, even if you’re just the person that links two people together, now you are the connector. You’re also valuable. So
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Phil Hudson:
No, this is the value of leadership. It’s just leadership

Michael Jamin:
Is what I was even asking too. Are you getting involved in that? Is that what you

Phil Hudson:
I’m going to, they don’t know this. They’ll listen to this. I don’t know. But yeah, I’ve got this final that I did in film school. Every project I’ve ever done, the audio has just been trashed. It’s just been correct. And the problem this time was my cinematographer didn’t enable the on-camera audio. And so I did have a good audio person getting the audio, so I just was able to scrape it enough to get an A on my final and get out. But I never finished the project. So that’s a project that’s sitting there. My friend Ken Joseph, who does the music for your podcast, he’s going to do the music on as well. And I’m just going to finally cut it and submit it. And then I’m probably going to put something together with a couple of people from the Tacoma crew who aren’t working right now and try to just get something shot and submit it just for fun.

Michael Jamin:
See, and this gets you off your ass, just lets a fire under your ass to do. But I bet you the, I

Phil Hudson:
Can’t not show up Michael. Not that I have any clout, but it’s like I’m number two in the group just because of my tech admin status. And so if I don’t show up, what message is that sending to people? And so I take that on myself as my responsibility for helping be involved and support the troubleshooting that goes on. Okay, I need to be an active

Michael Jamin:
Participant. How many winners are they going to choose?

Phil Hudson:
I have no clue on that.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Well, I look forward to watching the winners. I’m not going to judge, but I will be. I’ll enjoy the victors. I’ll enjoy their work. And I mean, again, that’s just people taking initiative of their own careers. That’s what you’re supposed to do.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. I mean, this is what you’ve been preaching for two years, man. You’ve been saying this. It’s like no one’s going to help you. You got to do it yourself. I think this is just a lost American skillset. That is a very important one.

Michael Jamin:
This is not film school. They don’t have to go to film school to do all this. No, this is where the conversation started.

Phil Hudson:
And on that note, it’s like, do you have to go to film school? Absolutely not. My answer is no. Am I glad I went to film school? I don’t know that I would be in the same place today if I hadn’t. I think that I had to go through a lot of that stuff. Are there benefits to going to school and getting a degree in general? I think so. I think as someone who grew up poor and I just had this chip on my shoulder all the time, that I was less than. So going and getting a classic education from a liberal arts school, having my eyes opened a little bit more by being encouraged to read stuff I would’ve never read on my own. I took classes on feminist literature because that was the course that fit into my schedule to check that box.
And I took the look through it, history of science fiction. Wow, learned so much about this genre that I love and saw the influence of that. So there’s a lot of those benefits I think from a personal development perspective. But I’m also an autodidact. I mean, I’ve got shells full of books that I can just read and learn on my own, and I believe anybody can do that. So it’s each their own. And with kids, my wife is not a believer in college and secondary education doesn’t really care because it’s not something that ever called out to her. I definitely see the value. And so our decision is it’s up to our kids to decide and we’ll support whatever they want to do. But I also know I’ve built a very healthy marketing career on my own that did not go to school for,

Michael Jamin:
The thing is to graduate though with a hundred hundred or $150,000 in debt,

Phil Hudson:
It’s insurmountable for a lot of people, especially, and I think this is what the strike highlights is, people in Hollywood have this opinion that riders are just driving Lamborghinis and they’re loaded. And the answer is no. They’re middle class people. They just live in a city that requires more money to live in, but they live a middle class lifestyle that would be the equivalent of a upper middle class lifestyle. In any other suburban area of America doing any other middle class job, there are outliers. It’s a bell curve. There are people who make way less. There are a lot of people who make a lot more, but the average in the bell, they’re just middle class people and they’re in my neighborhood. I mean, I just moved into this new neighborhood a year ago, and in my neighborhood, I go to this church and there are four people in the industry in the church. One’s an editor at Sony, one was the head gaffer for N C I S, and he’s retired now. And the other one’s a composer for film and tv, but they live in what I would call an upper middle class neighborhood. They’re not in the Hollywood Hills. I’m further away from LA than I’ve ever been. This is where I could afford to put my family.

Michael Jamin:
Right. So it’s just a little hard to think about having that amount of debt is

Phil Hudson:
When you can go to school for six, seven years and then start making 1200 bucks a day as an attorney.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. So do you really want to add that for the same debt?

Phil Hudson:
The same debt? So it’s crazy.

Michael Jamin:
So it’s probably just a better way to spend your money and your time probably. I would think. And again, I didn’t go to film school. One of the best writers I’ve ever worked with didn’t go to college. She was just a high school graduate. So it’s a question of can you put the words on the page? The degree will not open doors for you. No.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. And that ties into limiting belief, people talking all the time is you have to go to Harvard to make it in Hollywood. Yeah. It’s like, no, there are recruiting groups. There are kind of cliquey things that can happen for sure. And this is, I don’t know, so I apologize if this is incorrect, but I’ve heard that the Simpsons largely hires people from Harvard,

Michael Jamin:
And that was really, that news is 30 years old, so I don’t even know if they’re hiring anymore. The Simpsons is not what it once was. And people aren’t leaving that show. If you’re a writer on that show, you’re not leaving because why would you? So I don’t know how many writers they hire, and I don’t know if I know it once was a feeder. You go to the Lampoon. If you did the Harvard Lampoon, then maybe you get some contact.

Phil Hudson:
But that’s a qualification, right? You to work at the Lampoon, you are qualified because you have to have a certain joke set, a style of jokes. So I mean, that just makes sense to me. I know there’s a big U Ss C producing, I wouldn’t call it click but network. If you went to the producing school at U S C, that has value to people in the producing side. They know the quality of the education that you had.
But I mean, that’s alumni networks and that’s been around for forever. No different. The difference here is I know that if I need to find a job tomorrow, so let’s say the strikes end tomorrow and Tacoma FD is canceled, which is not, but if it did, what’s my next step? My step is to send out emails to everybody I know that I’ve worked with in the four years I’ve been on Tacoma fd, letting ’em know this is the kind of job I’m looking for. Lemme know if you hear anything. And I know that my work ethic will shine that if there’s an opportunity, they’ll ask me. They’ll recommend me that,

Michael Jamin:
Right?

Phil Hudson:
That’s the same network. I got that working.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, yeah, right. You built that yourself really. So, and another thing you can do if you decide to take a course or a class, and I’ve talked about this before, so apologize for repeating myself, but whoever your teacher is, it says if it’s screenwriting, ask to read their work. It’s okay. That’s okay. And you could say, I’d love to, before you sign up, I’d love to read what your work is. And then they’ll give you a script. If they’re not willing to share their work, what’s the problem? It’s a red flag. If you read it and you’re not sure whether you like where you think it’s good or not, there’s a simple test. When you turn to page one and you get to the bottom of page one, do you want to turn to page two? It’s the bottom of every page. Do you want to turn the page and find out what happens next?
If you’re on the fence, it’s not good enough. It really should be captivating. You should want to, it’s entertainment. If it’s not entertaining you, that’s how you judge. There’s no secret language to figure out whether, and I didn’t know this when I first broke into Hollywood, I didn’t know this. I would read a script and I go, it looks like a script. I don’t know. Or I was doing coverage for a publisher. Would this book make a good movie? So I was reading a lot of books and they’d say, do you think it’ll make a good movie? I’m like, I guess I remember reading, taking months to read or whatever weeks to read a book and thinking, this is dreadful. I guess this, it’s a good movie. No, it is actually less simpler. It shouldn’t feel like torture, turning the page.

Phil Hudson:
And that’s a real thing. And we’re having read so much stuff now pretty quick.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah,

Phil Hudson:
It’s going to suck.

Michael Jamin:
So ask to read their work, and if you don’t like it, then don’t study from them. They’re not going to. It’s really as simple as that. And if you do like it, great. Maybe you’ll study from still. Doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be a great teacher. Sometimes they can’t crystallize it. They just might have some raw talent that they can’t really, it doesn’t mean they’re good at sharing their knowledge means they have some kind of thing in them that, so there’s that.

Phil Hudson:
Well, and let me pay you a compliment too, Michael, because we’ve had a lot of people go through your course and one of the common testimonials we get or reviews we get is just how easily digestible it is and how packed with value it is. And I remember we’ve had two people in particular. One Bruce Gordon left you this great review. He said that, and I’m paraphrasing, but he said that learning the whole course, the learning process is so easy to get through that it’s impossible to not get value out of the backend. And we had someone who recently signed up within the last month who is literally, this is her job is learning systems, online learning management, and she wanted to know what platform we were using because she was so impressed with it. And I was like, it’s the most popular platform. Everyone uses platform. It’s not that. It’s the fact that you’re teaching valuable stuff, organized in a way that makes linear and logical sense that anybody can grasp.

Michael Jamin:
There’s no secret from it is just like I try to explain it in very simple terms so an idiot can get it. I’m not interested in, oh,

Phil Hudson:
And I’m an idiot. You’ve said things that I’ve heard a thousand times over in books and courses. And it wasn’t until you said it was like, oh no, duh.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, because I don’t want to make it harder for my, when I’m working in a writer’s room, I don’t want to make it harder for myself. I want to make it simple for me to think about these problems. So I don’t want to make it harder. The job is hard enough as it is. Why make it harder? Make it simpler. You’re telling a story. It’s not heart surgery don’t make so complicated.

Phil Hudson:
And you’re structured in the course that you talk about your bottom of act one. The way you define that. Oh my gosh, that just made so much sense. The first half of Act two. Oh my gosh. Makes so much sense. And I remember I was lucky enough, I came out to Disneyland with my family and I swung by your garage to talk about marketing stuff for your wife’s company. And we were just hanging out where you were recording. And I remember sitting there and you were like, well, what can I do for you? And I was like, oh, I don’t know, man. I’d just love to know what you think about story. And you broke the whiteboard out for me the same way you do in the course. And I was in film school at the time, and the way you laid it out, just I wanted to cry. It was like, this is so

Michael Jamin:
Easy. Yeah, see, it’s easy. We don’t make things harder. My partner and I, we try not to make things harder than it has to be. And that’s not to say it’s formulaic or facile, it’s just like, because you could tell a complicated, nuanced story, but you don’t have to make the beats of it complicated. You don’t have to. Geez, because we got to do this every week.

Phil Hudson:
I was watching Get Out on the plane, I’d never seen Get Out. I’ve bought it. I wanted to watch it. I just never made the time. And I watched it on the plane yesterday and this thing happens. I was like, I know where we’re at. And I checked the time. Oh, we’re there. Oh, beat by beat by beat.

Michael Jamin:
It fell right

Phil Hudson:
Into it. Of the greatest films of the last five, six years. Beat by Beat by beat. It’s the same story structure we use in Tacoma fd we use in King of the Hill, wherever it is. It’s the same thing.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, same thing. The way

Phil Hudson:
Jordan Peele does it, I could never do cause surprised, fascinating, great, that’s him. But it’s the same structure,

Michael Jamin:
Right? The structure is the same, right? So that’s where you put the structure is just like that’s building a house. Okay. If you know how to frame a house, you should be able to frame the house and then the color of the paint and the tiles, all that stuff is that’s the decorations. And that requires your taste and how you want to execute it. That’s fine. But don’t make the structure the hard part.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Structures are not hard. You have a foundation and you have stuff. That’s it. Everything else, the way you put it in your electrical system, what type of water heater you use, the piping you use, how is it connected? The junction box, that’s the complicated stuff. That’s you, that’s your craft. But the framing that, that’s a process. So one thing I wanted to tell you is I was at dinner with Paul Soter when I was on the quasi tour, and we were talking about writing in the writer’s room and TV and all of this stuff, and I told him this advice that you gave me, which was one, learn hotkeys. If you’re going to be a writer’s assistant and two, shut the F up. Your job is not to talk in the room. Your job is to sit there and take notes and listen and learn, and that’s what you’re going to do. And Paul Soder paid you and your writing partner or great credit, he said, yeah, I remember my first season in Tacoma. I just remember sitting there and wanting to shut up and say nothing and just learn from these guys. Oh, wow. Although they have great career in indie film and doing major studio films, they were still learning from you too because of us. I think it goes back to the simplicity with which you’re doing it

Michael Jamin:
And those guys, they’re movies. They made some really fun movies that people really love and they’ve made quite a few. They’ve made, I don’t know how many, maybe probably less than 10 movies, but it’s quite a few. But it’s probably not more than 10, right? It’s eight

Phil Hudson:
I want to say. But yeah.

Michael Jamin:
Okay. Let’s say it’s eight. And many of them have done really, really well. These low budget movies that have really made some money and they have a huge cult following, but they’ve only told whatever, eight or 10 stories. Whereas when you’re in tv, when we started, we were doing 22 stories a season. And it’s that repetition that you really is. That’s where you really learn how to figure out what story structure is. And you do 22 episodes over my 27 year career, it’s like, okay, it becomes a lot easier to know what a story is and how to break a story. Whereas in the beginning of my career, I was like sitting in a writer’s room watching the other more senior writers break a story. It was like a magic trick. It’s like, how do you know how to do any of this?

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, it’s cool, man. So to answer the question, do you need to go to film school? My answer is no. And for most people, I would actually encourage you not to because you’re going to get the debts, you’re going to get the student loans, and none of it’s going to help you progress in your career. Is there a chance it’s going to help you with your craft and get better at your craft? Yeah, absolutely. I think a little bit of it’s luck of the draw though. Like you said, it really depends on the teachers you get. Depends on how committed you are. Is it going to make you a better writer? No.

Michael Jamin:
Are there far less expensive ways to get the same amount of knowledge and connections? Yes, absolutely. It might require a little more work, but think about how much money you’re saving.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, there’s a doctor, a pretty renowned doctor now, Peter Atia. Have you heard of him?

Michael Jamin:
No.

Phil Hudson:
Dr. Peter Atia. He’s in the health and fitness and lung. He’s a longevity doctor. So he literally how to live Chris, he’s a Chris Hemsworth doctor, and he

Michael Jamin:
From Harvard, this guy,

Phil Hudson:
I don’t think it was Harvard, he was John Hopkins. He was a Al intern at John Hopkins. But anyway, he’s a book just came out just a couple months ago. Really, really good book about longevity. And he had talked about this thing called Arian Olympics, which is how do I live to be 100 and still be able to get down on the ground and play with my kids and put something in the overhead compartment? All of the things that kill people, old people, they don’t have that. But he was talking on a podcast about vaping and nicotine and all that stuff, and he’s like, I don’t have a problem with nicotine. The problem is the device and it’s the tobacco. And this is, for me, I always view things in two types. It’s risk and reward. And there’s levels. There’s a scale of risk and a scale of reward. And I think this applies directly to film school for people the risk, is it like getting hit by a tricycle or is it getting hit by a bus? And the reward is, am I step bending over to pick up a dollar? We’re picking up gold coins
And there’s an offset. If the risk to reward or matched, it might be worth pursuing If the risk to reward or misaligned, it’s not. And my opinion here is it’s the financial equivalent of getting hit by a bus to pick up dollars. Because you’re going to go to la, be a pa, and you’re going to make minimum wage for 4, 5, 6 years and you may never get out of that. I know people when the A M T P, excuse me, not the mtp, but the biopsy strike was going on, they were talking about how they never made it past writer’s assistant because they’d get on a show and it would get canceled, and then they would get on a show as a writer’s assistant and it’d get canceled six years down the road. They have it become a staff writer, even though they’re knocking at the door because luck of the draw.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, there’s luck there. Yeah, for sure. Alright, well there’s your answer, Phil. How’s that for? All right, well, before we wrap it up, let’s tell people what more they can get. We have a lot of resources free. Forget about paying Phil the same. I got a film school here. It’s free.

Phil Hudson:
Here’s the big one, Michael, you talked about if you want to learn from somebody, read their stuff. Well, you give away your stuff. You had me put this on the site, so it’s on your about page, there’s a form. You fill it out, and then Michael will send you a bunch of actual written and produced episodes of TV show. It’s like King of the Hill and a bunch of other stuff in there. But you can go read your produced writing and then go watch the show, which is, I think, a step beyond. It’s like you can immerse, see what you did and see how it ended up end result, which is pretty cool. So michaeljamin.com. I want to say it’s about, but you can just go to the main magazine, I think it’s

Michael Jamin:
About.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, and you can go get it there. And that’ll be sent directly to you. The free lesson, the same lesson you taught me, the one I talked about with my professor. You can get that lesson in a longer format with more detail, with more entertaining. And that’s michaeljamin.com/free. It’s how to Tell a story. You’ve got a paper orchestra stuff, webinar, which we going to talk about. Yeah, webinar. Webinar. Every three weeks. Now we’re doing a webinar. It’s about three absolutely free

Michael Jamin:
Webinar.

Phil Hudson:
Come join Michael for an hour, get your questions answered. We’ve been doing this private v i p thing where you just do q and a with people for about an hour or so after. And the results coming out of that. People love that. They’re big fans

Michael Jamin:
Of that one that is not free. There’s a small fee for that to cover some of our expenses, but,

Phil Hudson:
But you don’t have to do that. And you answer questions throughout the whole webinar as well. And we often put ’em on podcasts. So again, access to a professional writer I would’ve killed for 10 years ago that I never had, and then a paper orchestra book. I think that was something you were going to talk about. You were going to tell us a little bit about that process. You’re doing the audiobook, right? Oh,

Michael Jamin:
One of the things. Yeah, I’m excited. That’ll be dropping in a couple months because we’re still producing the audiobook. And what I’ve always, when I was writing this, it’s a collection of personal essays, but there’s stories, it’s not about, it’s not an essay. It feels like a story. It feels like you could shoot it, it feels like an episode of television show. But I wanted people to, at the end when as I was writing it, I want people to feel something and feel something like laugh and then feel this maybe discomfort at the end or something to hit ’em in the heart. And I want them to sit in it, and I don’t want them, as I was writing, I was like, how do I get people to just sit in this and not turn the chapter once the chapter’s over, I want ’em to sit in it. I don’t even want ’em to turn the page. I want ’em to really just feel it for a while. And in the audio book, how do you do that in a regular book? You can’t. You can only hope that they do that. When I do my show, as I perform this, as I say afterwards, my goal is I want you to go to your car and just before you turn the ignition, just sit in it.
I’m rocked. I’m too rocked to even turn the ignition for a couple half a minute or whatever. But for the audiobook, I’m actually able to do this. I’m actually can force you to do this because I do the story. And I gave each story the audiobook to this composer that I work with, Anthony Rizzo on Marin, who’s working with me on the audiobook. And I said, if this story, if this piece, this chapter was a piece of music, what would it sound like to you? And so this is his chance to do his art. He came back with these beautiful scores. So at the end of every piece, every chapter, it goes into music that he wrote. And you just listen to it and it’s like it carries you out. It carries the last note of the stories, the note, the first note of his score. And it really forces just, and some of they’re up and some of them are down, and some of them are happy and some, but it is wonderful how he did this. And so the audio book, I think this makes it more of an experience. And I haven’t heard an audio book done this way,

Phil Hudson:
So that’s so cool. And this, having had the privilege of seeing you perform this live last year in la it did that. It did that for me. I still think I’m thinking about it now. I think it was your story, I think it was called Ghost, is that right? Goul.

Michael Jamin:
The Goul. The Goul, yeah.

Phil Hudson:
And yeah, man, just thinking about that, all that emotion comes right back. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
The score he did for that, the score he did is fricking haunting. I was like, man, this is really good. So I’m so excited.

Phil Hudson:
So the cool thing is for people who can’t see you live, they can get a taste of that performance of you live with it sounds like plussed up with some amazing music too.

Michael Jamin:
And I do hope to tour with it, but obviously not to every city. It has to be your, I guess, bigger cities. But, and so if you want to know more about that or be notified when it drops, it’s michaeljamin.com/upcoming. And yeah, we’re working on it. But

Phil Hudson:
The only other thing was the newsletter. The watch. Oh, the newsletter to do weekly, your top three things. Also updates. We started adding updates like what podcast episodes coming out, what webinars coming up, that kind of stuff. Just a little bit more informational, but the value is still there. With those three free pieces of content delivered every Friday, right to your inbox. We proactively work to not do anything marketable or salesy to that newsletter. So if you want a lot of free content and you don’t really care too much about some of the other stuff that we’re doing with the course and that you’re safe there, go sign up for the watch list because it’s really meant just to be a value add of content that you’re putting out already. Just digesting it and getting it to people directly in their inbox.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah. So Phil’s in charge of all of that. Phil, you do a great job just in keeping all of that up to date and keeping your website up to date.

Phil Hudson:
We just did a whole revamp on it because when we changed systems last year, there were a lot of people who wanted marketing that were not getting it because we tried to protect that watch list so much from any types of salesy stuff. And you’re really big on that. You don’t want to be a salesy guy at all. So we did clean that up a bit. So if you haven’t been here from Michael and you start, it’s because we clean that up, but we even just set it up so they can manage their own list. So if they want to be marketed to and they decide they don’t, they can unsubscribe from that. But keep the watch list. We really did a lot of that stuff, trying to make it better.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. And thank you for all that. Yeah. Alright, everyone, thank you. Another a great episode, Phil, and I’ll be back very soon with more. Until then, keep writing.

Phil Hudson:
This has been an episode of Screenwriters Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin and Phil Hudson. If you’re interested in learning more about writing, make sure you register for Michael’s monthly webinar@michaeljamin.com/webinar. If you found this podcast helpful, consider sharing it with a friend and leaving us a five star review on iTunes. For free screenwriting tips, follow Michael Jamin on social media @MichaelJaminwriter. You can follow Phil Hudson on social media @PhilaHudson. This podcast was produced by Phil Hudson. It was edited by Dallas Crane Music, by Ken Joseph. Until next time, keep writing.

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Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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