Should I Go To Film School

Last Updated on January 17, 2023

Film School Vs. College?  Should I go to film school?     It’s certainly a question many aspiring filmmakers consider at some point in their journey to become successful. But with that dream comes the fear of debt and investment, the idea of regretting the opportunity costs, and a lack of resources when deciding which route is best for them.  ​

Whether you want to become a filmmaker, an actor, set designer and other related fields in film production, we got you covered with up-to-date information on california institute of the arts, los angeles film school and the best film schools in the world.

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Should You Go to Film School?

The Pros + Cons of Film School

If you (or someone close to you) have been thinking about going to film school, than this ‘pros and cons’ list will help make the decision.

As a filmmaking professional and teacher at a number of well known film programs and universities, I have seen and heard it all. I am often asked by students and parents; ‘Should I go to film school?

My answer: ‘Yes and No.’

Sorry, but you have to decide what is important to you. Here are the pro + con factors that will help you make the decision.

Pros

  • You meet common-minded people who will become professional peers after you graduate. They are people you can work with, make independent films with, and might even start companies with.
  • Your fellow-students are smart and eager and you will learn more from classmates than you will from teachers.
  • You are exposed to the wide perspective; you learn a lot about a lot of things. Because every job has a specific task, people often don’t understand how film jobs relate to each other between production phases and on-set. Going to film school makes sure you understand what everyone on a film team does.
  • You get to try out many different jobs to help you choose a trade. There is something for everyone in making a film, from accountants to interior decorators. Going to film school lets you test the waters.
  • You are introduced to gear and professional workflow.
  • This is your opportunity to make mistakes. If you go and make mistakes on a big budget film set or production that relies on the fact that you know what you are doing, you are screwed. And so is your professional reputation. Film school is where you learn – and you will learn more through your mistakes than your successes. Make mistakes when the stakes are low.
  • While most info is available online, working on mentored projects helps put all this information into context and develops your skills in a step by step process.
  • Filmmaking is as much about who you know as what you know. You will be part of a supportive community that will help you find work. Because of this, you need to research the school, it’s track record, and find out what the graduates are doing. (What if you want to move to another city? Is it worth going to school in New York if you want to move to LA?)
  • Film school is a place where you work in teams. Film is a team sport and it is important that you learn to work with other people with a common project + goal.

Cons

  • Teaching can be hit and miss. Just because the teacher is a film professional, it doesn’t mean they can teach (or that it is what they really want to do).
  • Film schools are very expensive. Could you get more out of learning online and spending the tuition on gear? Do you have other resources that would help you succeed? Hard to say.
  • All film schools are radically different. Some are in it for the profit, some are poorly equipped and financed, some have poorly designed curriculum, some have inexperienced teachers, some don’t stay up to date with current trends in digital media, some are all of the above. Some, I’m sure, are none of the above. It is important that you research each school thoroughly.
  • If you know what you want to do, you will be required to take classes that do not seem applicable to your career. For example, if you are focused on cinematography, you might not want to take screenwriting.
  • Most film schools do not teach two things critical for your success: basic business skills and how to effectively communicate (write and speak).
  • There is a disconnect between film schools in the academic world and the creative industries. Academic programs are slow to respond to skills that are needed in the professional world. This is particularly true with public schools, who are responsible to government bodies to uphold their curriculum because they are financially supported by taxes, and have to go through multiple layers of bureaucracy to make changes to their programs.

how to go to film school

How to Apply to Film School

clapperboard operator on film set

It’s a good idea to have a general idea of what admissions officers are looking for in a film school applicant.

While every film school has unique requirements, preparing for some of the standard admissions hurdles can help boost your confidence as you go through the process. Finding ways to make your application stand out can also help your chances at more competitive schools.

Here are five tips to help you focus in the right direction as you explore how to get into film school:

1. Express yourself effectively. Communication is key.

It’s not enough to have great ideas or artistic vision. Film schools want students who can communicate in a clear, compelling way. Learn the art of storytelling. Learn the technical aspects of language and grammar. You don’t need to be a screenwriting expert. That’s why you’re going to film school. However, admissions reps want to see that you’re able to write. If writing isn’t your strong suit, take a class or two.

2. Become well rounded. You need more than raw talent.

It might be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that academics don’t have anything to do with your creativity or aptitude for a filmmaking career. And you may be right, at least in part. Nevertheless, grades matter. Especially when spaces in prestigious film schools are limited and competitive, your academic performance will be a factor in whether you make the cut. So, words to the wise: don’t coast through chemistry class just because you don’t think you’ll use it later.

3. Speak for yourself. Film schools want to hear your voice.

You have life experience and something to say. You’ll bring your own unique perspective to the film school that is lucky enough to have you. And that’s exactly what film schools want to see. What sets you apart from other applicants? What’s your story? Embrace life experiences. They can make your stories richer and deeper. Travel to faraway places, or get involved in your own community. If you don’t think you have anything to say, film school admissions representatives won’t either.

4. Practice makes perfect—and a strong film school applicant.

There’s one sure way to prove that you have the talent to make it in film school and the film industry. Start filming. Tell lots of stories. They don’t have to be feature length—just five to ten minutes will do. You’ll become a stronger writer, director or cinematographer, and you’ll be a stronger film school applicant. Whether or not you’ll need to submit samples of your work with your film school application, it can only help you to have something to show for yourself.

5. Get ready for your close-up. Take an acting class.

Take a turn on the other side of the camera. Enroll in acting classes. It may not be a requirement for getting into school, but it will broaden your perspective. It can also give you insight on how to be a good director. Anything that makes you more well-rounded and versatile can only be an asset when it comes time to apply to film schools.

is it worth going to film school

If you have not yet mastered filmmaking and feel that attending a film school would help you grow as a filmmaker while speeding up the process to fulfill your goals as a filmmaker, then the answer is yes. Film school is worth it if it brings you closer to making your masterpiece.

Why Film School Is The Best Option For Young Filmmakers

Going to film school offers the following benefits:

Get The Education You Need To Build A Solid Foundation

During your time in a film program such as the 9 month Cinema Production Program, you’ll learn about film history and filmmaking techniques almost every day. Once you have gained enough skills, you can define your personal taste and style. Although it isn’t a surefire way to have a high-flying film career, going to film school can certainly make you a better actor or director.https://www.youtube.com/embed/PBXcfdIjDhY

Gain Resourcefulness

Filmmaking equipment and location permits can be very costly. As a film student, you’ll receive big discounts from locations and learn how to get the most out of basic filmmaking gear.

Filmmaking Is A Communal Process

Although acting and directing are artistic pursuits, they differ from painting and writing in that they usually involve more than one person. Enrolling in a film program gives you constant opportunities to get acquainted and work with others who are practicing the same craft as you. In the real world, collaboration is vital to a good film project.

Should I Go to Film School: Everything You Need To Know - NFI

Gain Access To Filmmaking Equipment

Even if you have great artistic talent and filmmaking skills, you’ll find it hard to compete with other filmmakers if you don’t have professional equipment. Not everybody can afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a red camera or professional editing suite. One of the main benefits of going to film school is that you’ll have access to virtually everything you need to materialize your creative ideas.

Establish Professional Connections

Networking plays an important role in the success of your film career. You need to have a strong professional network to gain recognition and find clients. At a film school, you’ll be interacting with aspiring and existing filmmaking professionals on a daily basis. If you’re able to take advantage of this situation and keep in touch with your classmates and professors, you may find some work through your contacts in the future.

Freedom To Learn What You Want

Some film programs are more theoretical, while others are more practical. Choose a program that suits your career goals and learning needs.

Potentially Affordable

Public film schools are often significantly more affordable than private ones. You can attend a high-quality public film school if you want to save money.

Gain A Competitive Edge

The film industry is highly competitive. Having a degree from a top film school and a strong portfolio can give you a slight competitive advantage.

Get A Better Career Outcome

Most employers in the film industry want to see your body of work and resume. Going to film school can put you in a better position to meet these expectations.

Clear The Fog

The art of acting or directing is so multifaceted that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Being around like-minded individuals in a film program can help you stay focused on your career goals.

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