To keep this semi-specific, I'm restricting the case study to the film "Gravity"

I'm wondering if the sort of directing, cinematography and special effects you find in that film could have been done by a crew entirely made up of "amateurs", where I am specifically defining amateur here as "Someone with nothing above a high-school level education."

I'm particularly curious about the direction and cinematography. Is it plausible that a director and cinematographer could have pulled off such work without having previously studied cinematography and direction at a tertiary level?

  • Are you assuming these amateurs have never done any reading/research movie making magazine subscriptions, have no budget, never practiced or even attempted to make a movie on their own with their phones even? Or for the questions sake, do these people have some kind of budget, time and experience? Aug 1, 2020 at 13:45
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    Charlie Chaplin grew up in extreme poverty and stopped going to school at age 13 and became one of the most accomplished filmmakers of all time. Aug 2, 2020 at 9:52
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    I went back and forth on closing this. Could you get a crew of non college educated people who happen to have picked up all the skills in the film industry - probably yes. But that clashes with the normal english definition of 'amateur'.
    – iandotkelly
    Aug 2, 2020 at 14:41
  • So my opinion is that this is either opinion placed - or if you strictly want to define this as formal education, then its clearly either 'yes' because you can pick up skills in on the job training or its not clear exactly what problem you are trying to get an answer for
    – iandotkelly
    Aug 2, 2020 at 15:00

1 Answer 1


There is formal education. And, there is informal education. You would have to have an education in order to make a film like Gravity. It would not necessarily have to be a college/university education.

In order to have the ability to make such a film, you would have to acquire the proper education, training, coaching, etc., along with a bit of natural ability. Like a professional athlete, natural ability alone will not be enough. Some type of education along with very hard work would be in order. That education can be had in many different ways. You can be self-taught. You could do independent research. You could even be mentored by or apprenticed to an experienced filmmaker. All of that is education.

By all accounts that I can find, writer/producer/director Quentin Tarantino never finished high school. Yet, he is now a well established filmmaker.

On the other hand, acquiring the resources to make a film is another story. In order to get investors or studios to give you the resources needed, a college/university education is superfluous. Your actual experience and previous work/successes are what will be important. A brand new graduate from the most prestigious university will hold less sway and clout with studios and investors than a high school drop out with blockbuster film making credits under his belt.

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