The Worldâ€™s Only
FILM SCHOOL DEDICATED TO COMEDY
Harold Ramis on the set of National Lampoonâ€™s Vacation.
Harold Ramis and Trevor Albert on the set of Multiplicity.
Jim Fisher and Harold Ramis in The Next Generation, Second Cityâ€™s 37th revue. (1969)
Harold Ramis directing on the set of Groundhog Day.
Letter FROM THE CHAIR It was on a bucolic golf course in South Florida that my real film education began.
The year was 1980, and I had been hired as the assistant to a first-time director named Harold Ramis. I was fresh out of college and eager to understand every aspect of comedic filmmaking. I found my new boss to be kind, funny, and more than happy to share everything he knew. After weeks of preparation, the first day of filming finally arrived. Harold rehearsed the first scene with the actors, breaking down in detail what dialogue might be improvised, where it was best to stick to the script, and how to squeeze every possible laugh out of the scene.
Harold looked delighted as he yelled “Action!”
Thus, my first essential lesson from Harold was learned. Turns out it’s not that important to know when to say action or even to know where to put the camera. There are lots of wonderful, techsavvy people who can whisper in your ear and help you look like you know what you’re doing.
But to find a great story and nurture it and refine it? That’s the most elusive of skills and one that Harold excelled at. And he also knew how to make those stories funny..
When rehearsal was completed, the assistant director yelled for quiet on the set. We had sound speed. But as soon as the camera assistant called out, “Scene one,take one!” I noticed something odd. Everyone, all the actors and crew members, were just staring at Harold expectantly. He looked slightly confused-until the A.D. rushed over and whispered in Harold’s ear, “It’s the director’s job to yell ‘action.’”
And so began the shooting of his first film, Caddyshack.
Little did I know on that golf course in Florida my partnership with Harold would continue for the next twenty years and include projects like National Lampoon’s Vacation, Multiplicity, and Groundhog Day, just to name a few. Those years with Harold included hard work, endless laughter, and countless additional lessons from one of the greatest minds in film comedy. I guess I can say I was really the first graduate of the Harold Ramis Film School.
When The Second City approached me about a school named after Harold, I immediately sparked to the idea. I loved the possibility of helping start a school that would celebrate the serious business of comedy and knowing Harold’s unique talents would be passed on to a new generation of comedic storytellers. Much of Harold’s greatest learning came as a result of his time at The Second City in Chicago. It was there that he grew as an artist on and off the stage, unlocking the power of improvisation and collaborative creation. It only makes sense that the film school is located in Second City’s storied Piper’s Alley building, steps away from the legendary stages where countless comedy careers got their start, including Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, and Keegan-Michael Key, and of course, Harold. I am honored to have the opportunity to oversee such a valuable asset to the film community and to work with gifted educators and an illustrious advisory board. Please take some time getting to know our school and what we have to offer. We’d be pleased to have you come create with us.
Chair, Harold Ramis Film School Producer, Groundhog Day, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Club Paradise, Multiplicity
Filmmaker PROGRAM 4
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
The Harold Ramis Film School at The Second City is the first and only filmmaking program of its kind. Over the course of the year, students are exposed to comedy theory, the ins and outs of comedy film production, screenwriting, improv, and attend master seminars with working industry professionals. Our program covers all aspects of comedic storytelling, broadening its applications to an expansive list of emerging industries that align closely with the hybrid skills developed here. Even if youâ€™ve studied at other undergraduate or graduate-level film schools, the laser focus of our programming offers students something wholly unique--and relevant to our world. During the yearlong program, students are immersed in all three of these key areas:
These courses lay the foundation for the creative process. Students are immersed in the methods of The Second City, learning how to use improvisation as a tool for collaboration and content generation. Students screen great comedic works from the past and present to absorb the work of comedians across various media and eras.
Great comedic filmmakers are great storytellers. In our writing courses, students explore the mechanics and art of telling a worthy story. Beginning with a foundation in traditional writing and classic storytelling techniques, students cultivate and develop their own comedic voice, learning how to transform it onto the screen. All students finish the year having written a fully completed script.
Through our unique Filmmakerâ€™s Laboratory and Directing Workshops, students make films in the studio and in the field throughout the entire year, learning how a director prepares, how to work with actors, and how to collaborate with the various roles on a film set. These production classes will put into practice the lessons on collaboration and storytelling from the other areas and culminate in students making their very own short film.
GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
In addition to the core classes, students attend Master Seminars throughout the year. Working artists from the industry lead discussions and hands-on workshops connecting studentsâ€™ work in the program to the real world. Our extended family of successful comedy writers, directors, and producers are ready and willing to share their insight into working in the business.
Producer Gigi Pritzker with HRFS students.
Master Seminar with Victoria Strouse.
Director Paul Feig talks with HRFS student Dania Khan.
Martin Short holds a Q&A for students with Trevor Albert in The Second City e.t.c. Theater.
In addition to distinguished Second City alumni and HRFS Advisory Board members Martin Short, Bob Odenkirk, Joe Flaherty and Betty Thomas, past speakers include:
Producer, Nebraska, Little Miss Sunshine, HBO’s The Leftovers
Director, Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters
Former President of Production, Universal; Production Executive, South Park, Borat, Dodgeball
Senior Vice President of Production at 20th Century Fox Animation
Producer, Hell or High Water, Ender’s Game
Playwright, Screenwriter, Host of NPR’s Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
Screenwriter, Finding Dory
Producer, Barbershop, Soul Food, Southside with You
Emmy-winning director, producer, writer, The Larry Sanders Show
Here is a sampling of the courses offered as part of the yearlong program. For the complete class listing, visit ramisfilmschool.com.
In this course, you will examine the language, physicality, and structure of comedic films through the prism of the times in which they were made, as well as how these films (and their offspring) remain relevant. By comparing and contrasting modern comedies with classics, you will understand how comedy can be used to express not just the times in which it was created, but also the universal issues that still confront us. To do this, class presentations will be broken down by specific epochs with classic comedy films chosen that illuminate the times and work to advance the form.
FUNDAMENTALS OF COMEDIC STORYTELLING
Students will utilize The Second City’s approach of creating from abundance and using improvisation as an invaluable tool in the creative process to create characters, situations, and premises ideally suited for comedic storytelling. Class workshops focus on taking you through the creative process of in-depth story development and exploring the art and craft of the comedy “punch-up.” The capstone project for this session is a completed screenplay for a short film or an excerpted scene from a pilot or feature, plus a “story bible” for an associated long-form narrative.
IMPROVISATION FOR FILMMAKERS
This course is the study of improvisation techniques rooted in Viola Spolin’s work. Students will develop the skills to work and think in a collaborative environment, learning solid scene work steeped in the tradition of Second City’s techniques and philosophies. Students will learn to create with a focus on Character Point of View to drive the content of the story. Improvisational concepts such as give and take, surrender, support, mirror, explore and heighten, environment, object work, scenic structure, beats and editing, character and choices, will be explored in depth and applied in scenes.
Drawing on students’ own interests, instincts, and observations, you will be given the necessary tools to make a nonfiction film. Students are encouraged to find the comedic, absurd, intriguing, and dynamic in the world around them. After shooting, students edit their projects and discuss the choices made both visually and structurally. Students then transition into fiction narrative and shooting exercises. Students begin to learn how to have a narrative POV and to understand how to speak the language of cinema. The class culminates in shooting a project with actors from The Second City talent pool.
MAKING THE SHORT FILM
In this workshop-style class, you will take your written script completed earlier in the year and make a short film. This class is where the filmmaker’s comedic point of view and technical skills are united with collaboration and storytelling in the creation of a final film project. After having learned different skills needed to make a film, students will create something that reflects their artistic point of view and tells a visual story, receive help and encouragement from the faculty and working professionals. In this session, you will direct, cast, budget, produce, edit, and learn how to deliver your film to the world.
WELCOME TO Top-rated network dramas. Critically acclaimed indie rom-coms. Superhero blockbusters. Spending a year at the Harold Ramis Film School means having access to a dynamic, thriving community right outside your door.
CHICAGO’S FILM & TV SCENE IS NOT JUST BOOMING, IT’S EXPLODING.
Chicago hosts over 40 independent film festivals a year, including many that amplify minority voices. In 2016, Chicago tallied a recordbreaking 2339 film production days, up 25% from 2015.
Chicago and its diverse neighborhoods are surprisingly easy to navigate. Our office can provide you with relocation tips for those seeking advice on off-campus housing options.
In addition to being the undisputed comedy capital of the world, Chicago is set against a spectacular lakefront backdrop that vibrates with culture, entertainment, public art, literature, museums, architecture, sports, theater, music, and food, so take advantage of our Midwestern hospitality and soak it all up during your time here.
Faculty member Gary Fox leads a class discussion in the Harold Ramis Screening Room.
Faculty THE HAROLD RAMIS FILM SCHOOL FACULTY MEMBERS ARE AN ELITE, DIVERSE GROUP OF ACCOMPLISHED HOLLYWOOD, INDEPENDENT FILM, TELEVISION AND THEATER PROFESSIONALS.
They’re screenwriters. Producers. Directors. Actors. Improvisers. Stand-ups. Authors. Documentary makers. Award winners. (In fact, their credits are so prolific, we couldn’t fit them all in this brochure.) Most importantly, they are hands-on teachers who are dedicated to fostering the success of their students in the classroom and beyond. The complete roster of our faculty members and development team is available at ramisfilmschool.com.
AVERAGE SIZE OF COHORTS:
15-18 students max
AVERAGE FEMALE-TO-MALE RATIO PER COHORT:
CURRENT STUDENTS’ AGE RANGE:
WHO IS THE IDEAL STUDENT?
Anyone who loves comedy and has a tireless need to create! Whether you’re just graduating from college or are looking to make a career leap, people of all experience levels and backgrounds are welcome here. Our small cohorts are made up of a hand-picked group designed to balance each other out. Skill sets and areas of interest and experience are all considered in order to provide each student with peers that will empower, inspire and strengthen each other as artists--and as people. We encourage students to take advantage of every type of opportunity offered, from guest speakers to monthly industry nights to the broad reach of The Second City and its creative partners. However, the most important connections you’ll make during your time at the Harold Ramis Film School are your fellow students, the next generation of comedy creators.
ADVISORY BOARD Our esteemed advisory board is committed to guiding and directing the school and its programming.
WRITER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER/ACTOR Freaks and Geeks, The 40 Year-Old-Virgin, Knocked Up
PRODUCER, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder
PRODUCER,FORMER PRESIDENT, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group
ACTOR/WRITER/PRODUCER The Office, Anchorman, The Big Short, Foxcatcher
PRODUCER, Zoolander, Dodgeball, Tropic Thunder
WRITER/DIRECTOR/ACTOR Freaks and Geeks, Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters
ACTOR/WRITER SCTV, Freaks and Geeks, Maniac Mansion
ACTOR/WRITER Mad TV, Key & Peele, Don’t Think Twice
MANAGING DIRECTOR, United Talent Agency
ACTOR/WRITER/PRODUCER/DIRECTOR American Pie, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show
Former President of Production, Universal; Production Executive, South Park, Borat, Dodgeball
ACTOR SCTV, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Difficult People
WRITER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER SNL, Anchorman, The Big Short
ACTOR SNL, Mean Girls, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
ACTOR/WRITER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER SNL, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul
ACTOR/WRITER SCTV, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show
ACTOR/PRODUCER Heroes, Hawaii Five-O, Friends with Benefits
PRODUCER, FORMER CHAIR Sony Pictures Entertainment Group Spider-Man, Skyfall, Ghostbusters
PRODUCER Drive, Ender’s Game, Hell or High Water
ERICA RAMIS PRODUCER
DIRECTOR/WRITER/PRODUCER Austin Powers, Meet the Parents, Trumbo
ACTOR/WRITER SCTV, SNL, Father of the Bride, Maya & Marty
PRODUCER Men of Honor, Barbershop, Southside with You
DIRECTOR John Tucker Must Die, Private Parts, 28 Days
ACTOR/WRITER SCTV, Strange Brew, The Blacklist
WRITER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER Bedazzled, Analyze This, Rescue Me
VICE CHAIRMAN AND PRESIDENT OF PRODUCTION, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
AROUND The Harold Ramis Film School is housed within a brand new, architecturally stunning expansion project, designed to foster and incubate creativity and collaboration. From world-famous stages to world-class facilities, we’re pretty sure the whole place will feel like home in no time.
THE SECOND CITY RESIDENT STAGES
The iconic arches of The Second City Mainstage. The immediacy and intimacy of the e.t.c. Theater. UP Comedy Club’s swank factor. Some of the world’s biggest stars cut their teeth in these rooms, and with shows running 7 nights a week, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to find out what makes these stages so magical.
Campus HRFS SOUND STAGE
This is the room (and the green screen) where it happens. You’ll film your projects in this state-ofthe-art facility, complete with all the bells, whistles, and any other sound effects necessary.
The Second City Training Center boasts four theaters: Judy’s Beat Lounge, Donny’s Skybox Theater, the de Maat Studio Theater, and the Blackout Cabaret. (Chances are, you’ll find yourself meeting with Chair Trevor Albert in the Blackout, his preferred “office.”)
HAROLD RAMIS SCREENING ROOM
Watch films (including yours!) the way they were meant to be seen: on a big screen. Get schooled in movies in style.
1959 KITCHEN & BAR The sleek marble bar or one of the plush, comfy booths are the the best spots to grab a bite and a drink with your peers. This is where all facets of Second City life come to unwind--actors, artists, students, and audience members.
It all started with children’s games. During the 1920s and 30s, Viola Spolin was working as a social worker at Jane Addams Hull House in Chicago, where her job was to help immigrant children better assimilate into their new surroundings.
Spolin created a number of improvisational games that gave the children hands-on experience at behaving collaboratively and empathetically. Spolin’s son, Paul Sills, was enamored by the games and taught them to his University of Chicago friends, where the true potential of these games to develop material and entertain audiences was uncovered.
18 Del Close, MacIntyre Dixon, Larry Hankin
Sills, Bernard Sahlins, and Howard Alk founded the theater as a place where scenes and story were created improvisationally, using the innovative new techniques. The Second City took its selfmocking name from the title of New Yorker writer A.J. Liebling’s 1952 book and opened its doors in December, 1959. Since that snowy Chicago night, Second City’s unique way of fostering talent and creating by ensemble has cultivated generation after generation of the world’s most iconic comedians, actors, writers, directors, and artistic visionaries.
Notable alumni of The Second City’s resident stages, touring companies, and theatrical divisions include:
Alan Arkin, Lauren Ash, Dan Aykroyd, Vanessa Bayer, James Belushi, John Belushi, Aidy Bryant, John Candy, Steve Carell, Dan Castellaneta, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Dratch, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Jeff Garlin, Bonnie Hunt, Keegan-Michael Key, Richard Kind, Eugene Levy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jane Lynch, Andrea Martin, Jack McBrayer, Adam McKay, Tim Meadows, Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Catherine O’Hara, Bob Odenkirk, Amy Poehler, Gilda Radner, Sam Richardson, Joan Rivers, Horatio Sanz, Amy Sedaris, Martin Short, Cecily Strong, Jason Sudeikis, Nia Vardalos, George Wendt, Fred Willard, Steven Yeun, and Harold Ramis.
Steve Carell, Paul Dinello, Stephen Colbert, David Razowsky
The Second City, circa 1960.
Catherine Oâ€™Hara and Andrea Martin
TJ Jagodowski, Jack McBrayer, Abby Sher, Keegan-Michael Key
HOW DOES THE ADMISSIONS PROCESS WORK? Our selective process requires applicants to submit a short cover letter video, one example of your previous work, an essay discussing your comedic influences, two recommendation letters, and a one-time application fee. Get detailed information on the required materials and submit your application online at ramisfilmschool.com. Please note, applicants must be at least 18 years old and have a high school degree or GED.
WHEN DOES SCHOOL START?
We offer multiple start dates during the year. Application deadlines and start dates are updated regularly at ramisfilmschool.com.
WHAT SUPPORT SERVICES ARE PROVIDED AFTER COMPLETION OF THE PROGRAM?
We have a full-time staff member dedicated to nurturing student and graduate success. Our Outreach & Communications Coordinatorâ€™s role is to build and foster industry relationships, as well as to advise and support students looking to find--and land--meaningful educational opportunities that will further their careers. While our ties at the Harold Ramis Film School and Second City run deep, the most critical support will come from the relationships you create during your time in the program.
HOW MUCH IS TUITION?
Please visit ramisfilmschool.com for the most up-to-date information on tuition for the upcoming term.
DO YOU OFFER A PAYMENT PLAN? Yes! To learn more, call (312) 883-1241 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Harold Ramis is one of America’s greatest satirists and, like so many other comedic geniuses, a proud product of Chicago’s Second City. When we watched his movies – from ‘Animal House’ and ‘Caddyshack’ to ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Groundhog Day’ — we didn’t just laugh until it hurt. We questioned authority. We identified with the outsider. We rooted for the underdog. And through it all, we never lost our faith in happy endings.”
—President Barack Obama
History WITH US BOOK CREDITS Lead Graphic Design/Art Direction: Matt Roeder Editor/Copywriter: Liz Kozak Photographers: Tim Schmidt, Kirsten Miccoli, David Audino, Matt Roeder Marketing Manager: Chanel Hemphill Creative Director: Bob Knuth
For additional information on the application process, materials, the curriculum, our payment plan, or to schedule a tour, please contact us today. Email: email@example.com â€˘ Phone: (312) 883-1241 â€˘ Online: ramisfilmschool.com
“HRFS has validated my ability and given me the confidence to pursue my voice. I know that with hard work and determination, I can be successful at my pursuits.”
—Christina Shaver, HRFS Graduate “This program has allowed me a second chance at a dream that I thought had passed by.”
—Sean Beck, HRFS Graduate
“One of the most impressive things I’ve experienced in the program is being simultaneously challenged and validated, which seems to be the ideal creative environment for me, because it has allowed me to genuinely grow.”
—Summer Pixton, HRFS Graduate
Part of Chicago's legendary The Second City, explore the world's only film school dedicated entirely to comedy.