Or, how we avoid high enrollment fees and obnoxious website ads.
Keeping quality filmmaking training affordable and accessible.
Lights Film School is a small online film school dedicated to the highest quality of education possible.
While quality is of paramount importance to us, so are affordability and accessibility. It’s no easy task keeping our enrollment fee low while at the same time ensuring the highest levels of professionalism in our content.
Keeping our enrollment fee low is important to us because we don’t want to be accessible only to filmmakers who can afford the high fees generally associated with film education.
Instead, we offer an affordable alternative to filmmakers around the world.
We pride ourselves on incredible value for money. Not only that, but we also feel a strong obligation to the indie filmmakers who browse our blog on a daily basis but will never enroll in our program or pay for any of our services. Lights Film School was started because we love filmmaking. We love talking about, teaching it, learning from it, and sharing everything we know about it.
That being said, high quality content can cost a lot of money to produce. Things add up quickly. Let us give you a quick example. For some of our videos, we’ve paid seasoned cinematographers as much as $800/day just to shoot the video; hair stylists and makeup artists often start at $200/day; actors or models can run $100 – $300/day; and our in-house editors put things together for something like $100 – $200/project. Add music licensing, gear rental, studio rental, and insurance costs into the mix, and it’s not uncommon for one of our tutorials to cost over $2000 to produce.
Sure, we could lower our standards and create videos for $3 using a webcam, a makeup artist we found willing to work for free, and an editor who just yesterday started playing with consumer editing software… But these are not the production standards that we teach.
Even though we run one of the web’s most popular filmmaking blogs, the reality is that we’re still a small, resource-strapped school. We go to bed every night wondering how we’re going to pay the bills this month. Like independent filmmakers who struggle to finance projects, we find ourselves working toward high quality standards simply by being resourceful and creative.
Quality education is our goal, and we don’t money to get in the way… So what do we do?
Well, we have a few options:
- We could drastically increase the cost of enrollment.
- We could splatter our blog with third party ads. Or,
- We could look for creative collaborations to help us keep our filmmaking course and other services accessible to filmmakers from around the world, and at the same time ensure that our free content audience (blog readers, email subscribers, social media followers, etc.) is receiving the highest quality of online content possible.
The first two options are unacceptable to us. So what does the third option look like? Well let’s start by describing what it doesn’t look like.
How we don’t work:
We’re contacted daily by people who want us to promote their film, festival, products, or services. They want access to you, our filmmaking audience.
We’ve worked hard to build your trust, and we don’t take this obligation to you lightly. Our own professional standards, coupled with our commitment to your privacy and experience of our websites and services, force us to decline something like 95% of these requests. Either their products or services don’t meet our expectations, or we’ve used their products or services personally before and were less than thrilled by the results. We would never promote this type of content to you.
How we do work:
That being said, we’re not opposed to companies who have a genuine interest in helping indie filmmakers solve creative or technical problems. Some great companies exists that cater to filmmakers, and it’s part of our job to find them.
Let us give you an example. A while ago, we created a tutorial on ISO speeds and noise reduction for filmmakers. Noise reduction software is something we’ve used in the past with great results. We stumbled upon a free demo version of Neat Video, and we realized that it was exactly the type of software that solved the problems that many indie filmmakers face. After using the software, we decided we wanted to promote this service to our audience. We then contacted Neat Video and told them about the tutorial we were about to produce, and asked if they would promo us a free copy of their $49 software in exchange for being a part of our video. They agreed.
Now when you watch our tutorial on ISO speeds and noise reduction, you won’t have to wait through a 30 second ad before the video begins, but you will see a URL promoting Neat Video when we get to the point in the video when we discuss noise reduction software. We don’t review their product in our video; we show you what impact it has on our image. You can be the judge if you think it’s a valuable plugin or not.
By getting access to new gadgets and gear, we help both teach our audience and increase the production standards of our online tutorials. Businesses get access to our online audience of filmmakers who might otherwise not know about their product or service, and our audience benefits because the depth and production value of our videos often exceed the work of others online.
All of this is only possible with the help of our partners. When faced with the dilemma of increasing our enrollment fee, allowing obnoxious third party advertising on our site, or allowing creative partnerships within our videos, we opted for the last option, since we saw no downside to doing so, so long as it was done correctly with honesty and integrity.
We are not beholden to provide positive reviews for products, and in many cases our content is not “review” based. We are very clear with our partners about this. Our tutorials and in some cases blog posts are meant simply to help show a filmmaker how to solve a problem, and if the problem can be solved better with a product or service, then we’re happy to provide a few curated recommendations.
We pride ourselves on the quality and depth of information we provide to our students, blog readers, email subscribers, and social media followers. Again, we do not take this obligation in quality to you lightly! We decline the majority of people, filmmakers, and business who ask for access to you. Every day, we receive requests to “Post this offer on your Facebook page for your filmmaking audience to see” or “We’ll give your student’s a discount our product (x)”. We’re not opposed to helping these folks, but being filmmakers ourselves, we look at everything through your eyes.
Does our Facebook audience really care about this offer? Do our students’ need this new product or service, or is this just another opportunity to spend money when a $17 DIY product would do the trick?
However, every now and again, a great company comes by that helps us solve a filmmaking problem, and we’re happy to share their techniques, products, or services with you! We love a good lens, a good camera stabilizer, a good editing software plugin. We obsess about this stuff, too! Ultimately, our goal is simply to ensure that we’re aligning ourselves with companies who have the same genuine love for the craft of filmmaking that we do.
It also should be noted that not all of our content is sponsored by one of our partners. We don’t force collaborations where they’re either not possible or necessary. For example, our video tutorial on lighting for videographers profiles the company ARRI. In other lighting videos, we profile Kino Flo lights. We had no relationship with ARRI or Kino Flo. We’ve just used these lights in the past, we love them, and we want to share that information with you. We think they are great companies offering amazing solutions to indie filmmakers. Our goal isn’t to “review” the lights; instead, it’s to show you how the lights help you solve the problem of darkness.
Similarly, in a quest to help us finance our video tutorials, blog interviews, gear recommendations, and other products and services, we are affiliated with Amazon and B&H Photo and Video, and will from time to time promote their products on our site. For example, if we talk about a lens, we might provide a shopping link to that lens. If you make a qualifying purchase on one of our online retail partners’ sites shortly after clicking a link from our site, we are compensated a small percentage of the sale. This income gets pumped back into our filmmaking training to help make our filmmaking course, blog, video tutorials, and every avenue of our content as in-depth and professional as possible.
If you have any questions about this, or if you feel we’ve promoted a product or services that doesn’t meet the quality guidelines that professional independent filmmakers should strive for, seriously, please let us know. We’re on your side!
Now that the boring disclaimer stuff is over… Get back to learning!