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Film Studies, Film Production, or On-the-Job Training

7/18/2012

If you look at the film programs in many colleges and universities these days, you’ll often find “film studies” among the different majors. In fact, for some schools, “film studies” is the only major available. For serious filmmakers, however, this kind of major can be unproductive and unhelpful. Certainly it helps to know as much about movies as possible, but filmmaking is a profession that is best learned by doing it—not just learning about it. The more hands-on experience and on-the-job training you can receive, the better.

WHY THIS MATTERS

If you take a film studies major at a college or university, the name of the major is a dead giveaway. You won’t be studying film-making; you’ll be studying film itself. In other words, you’ll spend the majority of your time studying the work of other filmmakers from a critical standpoint, rather than working on your own filmmaking art. You’ll learn a lot about movies, but you won’t learn much about how to make them yourself.

FILM PRODUCTION MAJORS AREN’T MUCH BETTER

If you go to film school to become a film producer or film director, you need more than just film studies; you need some sort of training in film production—in other words, a program that actually shows you how to produce and direct your own projects. But even then, you’re likely to face a few obstacles. You see, most film schools create on-campus production environments for their students, where they are unable to make real-life connections to the film industry itself—and this is a problem because without industry connections, it is difficult (if not impossible) to get a job in film. Majoring in film production in college is better than film studies, but you could still find yourself unable to “break in” to the business afterward.

THE ALTERNATIVE: ON-THE-JOB TRAINING

Some film students these days are looking for alternative methods to start their film careers, and one of these alternatives is to look for apprenticeship opportunities within the industry—that is, on-the-job training. While many people don’t have the connections to make this happen for themselves, one excellent way to get in the door is by enrolling in a film school that uses the mentor-apprentice approach. This type of school actually places each of its students in a real film production company, where a working professional trains the student one-on-one during actual film productions. On-the-job training teaches you film production in ways other film schools cannot—plus, it gives you direct access to the film industry, making it much easier to get work after you graduate.

If you simply want a career that is based around the film industry (like a film critic, for example), then film studies may be all you need; if you want to be a filmmaker, however, you need to focus on film production, not film studies—and on-the-job training may be the best form of film production education you will find.

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