Graduation films by students of the Swiss Film School ZHdK regularly win prizes. Is success learnable? We asked Michael Schaerer, Head of Practice Field for Film Editing at the Zurich University of the Arts, this question.
The ZHdK has asked us to draw the attention of our readers to their information events concerning Master’s studies in Film Editing. Because Filmpulse as an online platform for film knowledge does not publish classic references to events, we asked for an interview in return.
Michael “Mike” Schaerer, Head of the Film Editing Practice at the Zurich University of the Arts, answered our questions.
The Master Programme in Film Editing at the ZHdK
Filmpulse:Let’s start with the event on the basis of which we are conducting this interview in the first place. What’s that about?
Michael Schaerer:On November 22nd, which is a Thursday, we will give you the opportunity to get to know us and the ZHdK on site. Of course, we will also inform you about all details of the Master’s programme. Often, however, the discussions and contacts that arise on site, together with a feeling for how we as a university function, are just as important for the decision to study as the pure facts. Anyone who wants to work with a medium like film, which lives from feelings, should after all have a feeling for what he or she decides in terms of his or her own training!
Filmpulse:Let’s talk about facts briefly.
Michael Schaerer:The master’s programme builds on the Bachelor of Arts in Film. In the master program Film Editing you will delve into the area video editing. This qualifies and positions you for a later head function as a film editor in film, television and audio-vision production. The course enables you to be creative, experienced and independent in the film and television market.
Filmpulse:Does the Master’s focus lie on theory or rather on practice?
Michael Schaerer:The studies with us are project-oriented and thus very practical: As later in your professional life, you will be involved in various short and medium-length documentaries and feature films. You will work closely with other students in the fields of directing, camera, film editing and creative producing. We focus on dramaturgy, scene resolution, film analysis as well as specific theoretical approaches of film editing (different principles of editing) and technical editing basics (workflow postproduction). Theoretical and methodological basics are taught in specific seminars within the discipline or in cooperation with the Seminar for Film Studies at the University of Zurich. You can also complete this theoretical part of your studies at the partner universities of “Netzwerk Cinema CH/Réseau Cinéma CH“, a nationwide cooperation of universities, universities of applied sciences and other institutions.
Filmpulse:At the student Oscars, the ZHdK appears again and again. Why are the graduation films so successful?
Michael Schaerer:Difficult to answer. In our company, final theses are always strongly dependent on personal skills and attitudes. Authors usually write a screenplay as their final thesis, for directing you shoot a medium-length documentary or feature film. In the Film Editing course you decide on one of these projects and help shape it. Often this goes beyond pure assembly work.
In the Master’s degree course in Film Editing you will bring your professional competence to bear in productions.
Michael Schaerer, ZHdK
For your graduation film you can also look for a collaboration with a production company. If you can convince an external partner of your abilities, you can also edit a feature film for the cinema as your thesis.
Filmpulse:Until I have the title “Master of Arts in Film”: How long does that take?
Michael Schaerer:We are talking about full-time studies. The Master’s program in Film Editing at the ZHdK normally takes four semesters.
Filmpulse:Let’s make a hard cut and jump to the university campus of the ZHdK. How does it feel to be a master student in the area of the former milk factory, which was rebuilt in 2014?
Michael Schaerer:The dimensions here are unique in Europe. Because we at the Zurich University of the Arts have the space to do so, all disciplines are united under one roof. We are something of the educational and cultural centre of the city in the sectors and areas we serve. This is ideal for an uncomplicated exchange and for your networking. Bistros, a bar, but also various food trucks with freshly prepared food and drinks additionally ensure that you get more than just input for your brain. And of course, we currently have 27 technically perfectly equipped editing suites for film editing. These are distributed over 2 floors. Of course, this also includes software such as Avid or Adobe Premiere, although for many reasons we mainly rely on the Avid Media Composer in the field of film.
Filmpulse:A question that young talents who dream of a career in film regularly ask themselves: Why don’t I just teach myself film meditation in my own studies? Software for film editing I get for free and 100 movies to watch and with YouTube tutorials I can learn even without film school.
Michael Schaerer:For the artistic and condensing work of professional montage you need not only an intuitive approach, but also a methodical handling of the image and sound material. Alone, you can hardly acquire these important skills in just two years.
A film editor must offer solutions. To do this, he must first learn to recognise and understand problems.
Michael Schaerer, ZHdK
You also lack the network that you can build up in a place like ours. This can also be decisive for your later career.
Filmpulse:And if I don’t believe you?
Michael Schaerer:Then you will come to us on November 22nd at 18:00 o’clock in the Toni-Areal! There you will find me in the cinema TONI on level 3 at the ZHdK at our annual information event. There will also be students with whom you can exchange ideas.
Filmpulse:What if I have very basic questions about the Master’s programme that go beyond the practical field of film editing?
Our student advisory service is happy to help you with questions about finances, working and living in Zurich and other topics. By the way, students from Germany can submit an application for AföG (student grant for foreign students). The Master programme itself costs you CHF 720 per semester. If you travel to Switzerland for the Master’s programme and live here, you have to pay an additional semester fee of CHF 500. Incidentally, in cases of hardship, tuition and additional semester fees can be waived in whole or in part. However, before you can submit an application to us, you must first apply for scholarships from other government agencies and foundations.
More info and links
Here you can find further, official information about the ZHdK and the Master’s programme Film Editing in Zurich
- Webpage of the ZHdK Zurich University of the Arts
- Film Editing at the ZHdK
- Online registration form for the Master Film (online from 15 November)
- Information for international students
Contact address: Zurich University of the Arts, Toni-Areal, Pfingstweidstrasse 96, P.O. Box, 8031 Zurich
If you would like to get an insight into the complexity of film editing, you will find an insight into the practice at Editor Sven Pape.