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Should You Go to Film School?

The Pros + Cons of Film School

· Film Education

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.
Illustration by: Marek Haiduk

Conclusion

I sincerely hope this list is helpful.

You are at a crossroads. You have to make decisions. Not deciding is still a decision.

Be brave and determined by the action you take. Most of all, don’t be afraid of asking questions when you visit schools.

My career focused on helping students succeed. Success comes in many forms. Some people succeed because they went to film school. Some succeed in spite of not going to film school. Some people succeed in spite of film school.

Here are links to the top film programs in the US and Canada;

The Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada 2017: Film Programs to Shape You Into the Next…
Canada While their cinematography certificate program is on hiatus for the year, Capilano excels in the subject as one…www.moviemaker.com

https://www.moviemaker.com/archives/best_of/best-film-schools-in-the-us-and-canada-2017/7/

The Top 25 Film Schools in the United States 2015
How did Joss Whedon pick Wesleyan? "The weather was nice that day, and people had weed." Scores of alums of the nation's…www.hollywoodreporter.com

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/best-film-schools-2015-top-828483/item/colorado-film-school-top-25-823655

If you have any further questions or want clarification, I would be happy to respond.

More blog posts about film, education, and storytelling are coming so please subscribe to my channel and like this post, including a blog on ‘Private VS Public Film School’.

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