Are All Film Schools Alike?


If you are researching film schools in pursuit of your dream to become a film producer, film director, screenwriter or film editor, you probably already realize that not all film schools are alike. They can differ greatly in tuition price, quality of education, quality of equipment, and overall prestige. Some film schools are associated with colleges and universities (like NYU and UCLA), offering full-blown degree programs including general education, while other schools offer more focused training (like Full Sail or New York Film Academy). Some smaller film programs can be completed in less than a year, while some can last 3-4 years. And if you choose to pursue a master’s degree in film, you can end up attending as long as seven years.

However, there is a characteristic that most film schools share in common, a foundational flaw in their approach that has proven to be an obstacle for many aspiring filmmakers—and that flaw is that traditional trains its students is in an isolated environment away from the “real world.” While this does not prove to be an issue with certain professional fields, it does pose a problem for filmmakers, because it essentially robs film students of the opportunity to make industry connections and gain real-life experience—and without these elements, it is very difficult to get a job in the film industry. It does not matter how prestigious the film school is, or how comprehensive its curriculum—without connections and experience, film school graduates are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to landing the job. This is one reason why for the huge numbers of film students going through these film schools, few actually break in to the industry itself.

That said, it is important to get an education in film—it’s just that you need to do so with your eyes open. Here are a few points to consider:

  • Degrees and diplomas do not matter to the film industry. The people doing the hiring do not really care where you went to school—only that you can do the job well.
  • Industry connections are a key to getting hired. You need to have a way to build these connections, regardless of where you attend school.
  • Many film professionals believe it’s better to learn on the set than in a film school.

One way to bridge the gap between traditional education and the film industry is to attend a film school using the mentor-extern approach. With this approach, you will actually go to class inside a real film production company, learning directly from a seasoned professional on actual film shoots and productions. It’s a cost-effective way to learn everything you need, while gaining the experience and connections necessary to move forward. When looking at film schools, finding a mentor-extern school might be the key to your success. 

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