When I started my film making journey in the fall of 2021, I had no idea what I was getting into. I had some idea that I was going to learn screenwriting and film editing and had a sort of hazy expectation that I could parlay this new education into a new career. I wasn’t keen on the concept of learning new technical skills, but I was game.

Now here we are, two and a half years later. I officially have my film technology certificate degree. Yes, I walked – and it was an uplifting and emotional experience.  And I never expected when I registered for classes what I was going to accomplish.

Patrice Sarath wears cap and gown, walking up ramp with cheering people on either side, to go inside for graduation ceremony
It was a pretty emotional day, and I was proud to participate in the spring 2024 commencement.

Here’s what I learned in film school:

Audio and Grip and Electric

Ever watch a movie or TV show with muddled sound? How long did you stick it out? People will forgive a movie with bad lighting or dialog or story, but bad sound will make an audience leave a theater or reach for the remote.

Sound is hard, y’all. I’m not good at it but I’m getting better. I’m also getting better at making sure that sound is good on any of the projects I’m on. That we take into account background noise and hiss and static. That we build in time in the schedule to capture wild lines or additional recording.

Lighting and cinematography

I knew you needed lights. I didn’t know how lights set the mood or created the illusion, or were an art form. The difference between a video and a professional movie or TV show: Lighting. I still have so much to learn.

Camera operation

I’m not the best camera operator and I still struggle with camera work, but I know what I don’t know at least. And here’s what happened to set me back so much. In my Film Style production class in my second semester, we had an instructor who didn’t teach very well. So much so that we had one or two lessons on camera, but after that, he just lectured at us.

The goal of the class was for us to crew and film two short films apiece, but the class was so badly taught that people started dropping out, and we hadn’t been given any instruction in camera use.

It was seriously hampering my confidence in my lighting and cinematography class, to the extent that I was embarrassed by my inability to confidently use the basic tool of the trade.

I almost dropped out, ending my film studies career right there.

Camera Boot Camp

Instead, I had a flash of inspiration. We could reserve equipment to make our projects. So I reserved a camera, the Sony FS-5, a workhorse of the industry, the lens kit, and a Benro tripod. And I took it home and built that camera on the tripod every day for a week. The first night, it took me two hours to set up the camera, turn it on, and adjust some rudimentary settings. By the end of the week, I could set up the camera in about 20 minutes.

That weekend, I had to film a noir-inspired project for a lighting and cinematography homework assignment. I wrote a one-minute script, got some friends to act, and used my friend’s back patio to shoot it. I lit it using the GVM light kit we were assigned for class, and well –

It’s still one of the best projects I’ve ever made.

So much fun — I learned so much and best of all, it gave me so much confidence.

That lighting class was the hardest and best class I’ve ever taken. I was so out of my depth and I learned so much. I will be forever grateful for what I learned and what an excellent foundation it gave me.

Getting Things Done

We ended up making a few movies in Film Style, and that was largely because I led the class and made it happen. The instructor had the audacity to get snippy with us that we hadn’t started a project. Actual dialog:


It’s almost spring break! Why haven’t you shot anything?!


 We don’t know anything!!

So with my week of camera experience under my belt, I made sure we started getting projects done. First up was my short called Toughs in Love, where I made every mistake in the book. Then a couple of us made our individual projects, with everyone helping on crew. Finally the class came together (all five of us remaining) to do a final short project called Changeling.

We were later informed that we were the first class of that particular instructor to actually submit a project to the ACC end of semester student showcase.

Directing and Portfolio

I leveled up the next year. I took Directing in Spring 2023, and made my short film Do Over, which won Best Short and Best Student Short at Equinale Film Festival in Mecklenburg, Germany, and Equus Film Festival in Albuquerque in 2023.

What a difference a year makes: From Spring 2022 to Spring 2023.

And my portfolio project, Macbeth, which I write about here, is almost complete and ready to go out on submission to film festivals. I can confidently say that Shakespeare in the Diner: Macbeth, is going to be a success for everyone involved, cast and crew.  

Producing Movies

I produced two projects in spring 2024. I was responsible for managing both projects, raising funds, scheduling the shoot, scouting locations, managing the audition process, helping put together the crew, creating the call sheets, and working with the director to create shot lists, shooting schedules, and more.

Alice. A student encounters hostile classmates and an unsympathetic teacher, and is plunged into a nightmare that she manages to escape by drawing courage from a gift from her girlfriend. Winner of the Director-Producer Partnership Award and the Film Festival Submission Award at the ACC Establishing Shots Student Showcase in May 2024.

Braids & Bows. A teen girl raised in a conservative Christian church gains the courage to stand up to her strict parents with the help of an unexpected crush. Accepted in the ACC Establishing Shots Student Showcase.

People often ask, what do producers do? The answer is, a lot. But basically, we’re in the director’s corner and we make sure that they get to execute on their vision.

Film Editing

One of the best things I learned in film school is how to edit a film. There are the technical aspects of being able to use an application like Adobe Premiere Pro. And then there’s the storytelling part of editing. What clips you choose and why. How to understand the performance and the story. When to choose the performance over the technical when it comes choosing a clip. How something as simple as a frame or a couple of frames can make the difference.

Editing is as much an art as shooting, and arguably even more important. It’s the final version of the film. Like everything worthwhile, it’s not easy. I am, as always, better at it than I allow myself to think.


I am a story teller. It’s what I do. I started film school because I wanted to become a better writer and story teller. And that is what happened. Screenwriting is so structurally tight because it’s both art and an instruction manual. When people sneer at the formula of beats and turns and rising action and scene motives, they’re missing the point. This is what storytelling is. Read a fairytale or a short story or a novel. What draws you in? What makes you turn the page? Those are the beats and turns.

I’ve become a better prose writer because of the screenwriting training.

As I write this, I earned 3rd place in the first round of the NYC Midnight short screenplay challenge, and I’m waiting to hear if I passed on to the second round. While getting past the second round and into the third round is a huge step, I already know that the script I wrote for the second round is a viable short film script. It’s very doable – low budget, actor-worthy, and the type of story that is appealing to audiences.

listing screen shot showing the first three finalists in the first round of a screenwriting competition
Winning 3rd place in the first round was a great feeling; now to move forward through Round 2.

I’m already thinking of ways to make it.

And that leads me to:

Building Connections

Film school is where you find your people. Your crew. The team you want to make movies with. I AD’d (Assistant Director) on a friend’s shoot yesterday for the Austin 48-Hour Film Challenge. I’d make a movie with any of these people.

The film industry is all about connections, and film school is where that starts.

What’s Next? Books and Stories

I know this is a long post. Thank you for still being here.

So this is where I’d like your help. Please continue to follow my film making journey.

If you like my books and stories, I’d love it if you could share them with your friends and family. After all, Father’s Day is coming up – and what dad doesn’t like Jane Austen, or fantasy and Regency? Or horse books?

I will have more news to announce regarding short stories in a few months, and I’ll be able to share an exciting new project.

Talk back to me! Let me know your journey in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.


Amanda Bowman · June 9, 2024 at 7:26 pm

I am so proud of you Patrice! Watching you turn a terrible moment in life into a transformative career change has been wonderful. I can’t wait for Macbeth in the Diner and everything else you make and write.. Kudos!

Lynett · June 9, 2024 at 7:48 pm

Great post! You really made fantastic lemonade out of the lemons you were dealt. I’m really happy for you and looking forward to Macbeth!

Lawrence · June 10, 2024 at 11:19 am

What a wonderful, challenging, and successful journey you have been on, Patrice. I wish you continued fun and success in all your creative endeavors.

Carol · June 10, 2024 at 11:39 am

What an incredible post and an amazing journey you have taken from reader to writer to filmmaker, producer, screenwriter, cameraman, and graduate from film school. Everything you imagine comes true! But not without all the grit and determination you put in. So proud and in awe of you

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