Grey Room

Film Courses in Art Schools

Harun Farocki


We know that there are film schools in Munich and Berlin, even if we don’t know what happens there or what is concretely done there. We know practically nothing about the film courses in Braunschweig, Kassel, Hamburg, and Düsseldorf. I have given seminars in some of these courses over the past few years; I was in Stuttgart for one year, as a lecturer from early ‘70 to early ‘71 in the basic film course. Based on these experiences, I’d like to give some information about film courses in art schools. In Stuttgart, we were always working toward the day when systematic teaching would become possible. (But this day never came; now there is no longer even a planned film course in Stuttgart.) We didn’t have a single editing table, no money for film stock, and we usually gave the seminar in a hallway. The students received no stipend since film had not yet been approved as a subject. And because there was no money for specialized lecturers, I had to ambitiously scratch the surface of all kinds of topics. Under such conditions, it is impossible to give anything other than cultural-political information. It appears pointless to me to deal with my failure regarding the students’ wishes and just as pointless to criticize the students’ wishes. I must therefore forego describing the process of the emergence of judgment or recognition.

The film school in Berlin is endowed with approximately 50,000 DM a year per student; the budget of the school in Munich is similar. With this money, many lecturers can be hired, an equipment room as well as a library can be maintained,and it enables every student to shoot films alone or in groups. The thesis film can be produced for a per-minute budget similar to that of a TV feature on the third channel. These kinds of working conditions are far from ideal, but they at least make it objectively possible to make the most of the level of the scholarly and technical understanding of film. From the standpoint of the authorities, 50,000 DM is absolutely great. An art school only needs a third of this amount for its students.A functional film department in an art school would therefore be a disproportionately overstocked department. A foreign body in the books and in the consciousness of the schools and ministers. It is hard even to reckon with such overabundance.Feature film producers and TV stations have had a crucial role in initiating the schools in Munich and Berlin; the TV stations are also involved in supporting the academies. It cannot be expected that both of these groups will work for the same or a similar concept in a third location. With the same concept, but fewer means than in Berlin or Munich, it is only possible to scratch the surface. A concept must therefore be found with specialized educational and research goals that makes sense to the cultural ministers and that at least partially motivates support from TV and film companies; a concept that at the same time does not hinder the remaining activities of an art school.