Film Schools: Are They Worth the Money?



01/08/2012

If you have done any research whatsoever about film schools, you already know they can be very expensive to attend. Even some of the 2-year programs can easily run between $50,000 and $70,000! Given the fact that there are plenty of filmmakers out there who never went to film school at all, it begs the question: are film schools even worth the money?


First of all, let’s begin with the understanding that you do need an education in film, whether or not you actually get that education in a film school. No one’s going to care where, or if, you went to school as long as you can prove you know what you’re doing. The problem is, you also need a couple of other things besides an education: you need to log some real-world experience, and you need some connections within the industry itself. The people who do the hiring in this business don’t particularly care whether you have a degree, but they will want to know who you know and what you’ve done.


Most film schools can educate you, but few can actually help you with the experience and connections—and that’s the point at which film school might not be worth the cost. After all, your degree means nothing if you can do nothing with it.


This is where you will need to ask yourself: If I don’t go to film school, how will I get the education, experience and connections I need? Some new filmmakers manage to break into the business by getting themselves into film production companies, or even by making movies on their own and getting them into the hands of the right people. Not everyone, however, has the ability to form those connections on his/her own. This is where an innovative method called the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach can help you.


Simply put, a school using the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach (Film Connection, for example) will instruct its students by placing them inside actual film production companies as apprentices, where they will follow a curriculum while learning on real film shoots. A working professional within the company acts as a mentor to the student, to coach and instruct while making sure all bases are covered. This is a very effective way to gain both the experience and connections you need, along with a quality film education. Even better, because all training is done on-site, it is also a very cost-effective way to learn.


The bottom line is, you do not need to take on a mountain of student debt in order to learn the art of filmmaking, nor will spending tens of thousands on an education put you in a better position for success in the film industry. Film schools are only worth the money if they can help you launch your career; this is what makes the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach worth looking into.