Documentaries courses in San Francisco: Staci Degagne’s Story

“I am 21-years old and I grew up in Las Vegas Nevada. Pretty average existence there, considering the town.   My parents bought a digital camcorder when I was a sophomore in high school and I was immediately hooked.  I started learning the basic editing software myself and even produced a documentary about my cross-country team.

After graduating high school, I moved to Reno to attend the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR).  My chosen major was Broadcast Journalism. Because the local PBS station was located on campus, I decided I might as well try getting an internship while I was at school.  Although they were not offering any paid positions (PBS being a low budget kind of a place) they told me that I was welcome to start as a volunteer, helping out in the tape library.  I took it.

So after working as a volunteer for about three or four months, a position opened up as an on-air operator (the guy or gal who sets up program tapes, sets levels and essentially pushes all the buttons to put programs on air).  I immediately let them know that I was interested and they gave me the job.  Although it wasn’t really a creative job at all, and I was only getting paid minimum wage, it was a great experience for me.  Oftentimes, I would have to work on stuff in the edit bay, which was where all the local shows were cut and where all the producers and editors would hang out.  I’ve always considered myself a creative person more than a technical person, therefore, it was also frustrating to be in an environment where everyone around me was editing and shooting and creating all this cool stuff…while I sat on the sidelines and pushed buttons.  At the same time, school was also frustrating me because it all felt like exercises, exercises, and exercises.  I wanted to actually produce something tangible and substantial.  I was sort of impatient that way.

This led me to start researching film schools specifically, hands-on film schools.  One Google search led me to San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking and their documentaries courses in San Francisco, the rest is history.  No, but one visit to the school and I knew this was the place for me.

I talked with a student who was in the process of editing his own film, a film that he wrote, he directed, he produced.  It was amazing.  I made my decision that day.

I started FilmSchoolSF’s digital training in March of ’06.  I feel like I really lucked out because my class, Class 3, was an amazing group of people.  It was funny, but even though our class was filled with people who were young, old or in-between, from different backgrounds, etc. we all really bonded and clicked because we shared the same entrepreneurial mindset, and the need to express ourselves.  I don’t know, but it was cool.  Not only were the students great, but the staff was amazing as well.  Due to the intimate atmosphere, we really got to know our instructors and they always offered candid advice and wisdom which was priceless to me something I couldn’t get anywhere else I really believe that.

I think it was after the second project (the documentary) that I realized editing was my main interest.  Therefore, when January rolled around, and it was time to sign up for positions for the feature, I knew that I would only sign up for assistant editor.  There was really nothing else I wanted to do.  I lucked out because not too many other people wanted to work it, so I was able to work both my weeks as assistant editor.  From there, I really lucked out because after production wrapped, James told me that he would be editing the film himself, and told Brandon Hamilton and I that we could help as assistant editors if we wanted (since we had already been doing it during production) I jumped at the opportunity.  The idea that I could help out on a real film, in a position that I knew I loved…it was completely…cool!

We have been working since mid-February and are now putting the finishing touches on the film.  Although the experience wasn’t always easy, it was absolutely amazing.  James really treated Brandon and I like professionals, and for that, I am truly grateful.  That kind of trust and responsibility forces you to really take the bull by the horns, work hard, learn stuff you don’t know, so you can continue to work on the film and not look like a total idiot. I learned more in the last 4 or 5 months than I did in a whole year and a half of college.   Not only did I become more comfortable and proficient in Final Cut Pro, but also the whole process of post-production became graspable.  I understand what it takes to get a movie finished…how dedicated the director, James, had to be.  Editing has become more intuitive and although I still have a lot of progress to make, I feel like this experience gave me a running start.

Thanks to the support of FilmSchoolSF and a great recommendation by James, I was able to land a job with Scott from Podango Productions.  I will be working for him as a “Production Assistant.”  Basically, I will be assisting him in the development and production of podcasts, getting paid to shoot and edit! One of the most important lessons my parents ever taught me was know what you love to do and work hard at it, and you will be fulfilled.  Right now I just feel really blessed that I have been given the opportunity to pursue my passion for editing and filmmaking and get a salary too.  I was able to quit my job as a waitress and now can focus all my attention on growing as a professional in my career of choice.  I know that I have all of FilmSchoolSF (staff and my fellow classmates) to thank for that.”

Staci DeGagne
Digital Filmmaking Program, Mar ‘06 – Mar ‘07
clowninthemoon85@gmail.com

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