Do I Need to Attend a Filmmaking School?



02/22/2012

Perhaps if you’re dreaming of a career as a filmmaker, you’re asking the question: “Do I need to attend a filmmaking school?” How important is it that you earn a degree or diploma in filmmaking?


Believe it or not, it isn’t that important at all. Earning a film degree does not increase your chances for success in this business. In the eyes of the film industry, all the degree tells people is that you went to film school; it does not tell them if you’re any good at what you do. What DOES increase your chances for success is having connections, along with some real industry experience. The people doing the hiring will care more about who you know and what you’ve worked on than where you went to school.


In fact, consider this: many successful filmmakers never went to film school at all. The list no doubt includes some names you will recognize:

James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar)

Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds)

David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network)

Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings trilogy)


…and many others.


Even film legend Steven Spielberg found success outside of film school, taking a 30-year break from school before finally completing his degree! Apparently, filmmaking school is not a requirement to success in this business!


So why bother with film school at all?


Don’t misunderstand: you do need an education in film. No one becomes a filmmaker without knowing how to make films. If you have no other way to learn filmmaking, then film school may be a good choice for you. Just understand that filmmaking school alone won’t get you where you want to go. The directors listed above all found a pathway to success outside of film school because they had a way to learn the skills, plus they had the connections they needed. If you want to succeed like they did, you need to have what they had: a combination of education, experience and connections. And it is possible to find all three of these ingredients without going to a college or trade school.


One way to find these ingredients is to consider a school that uses the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach. Rather than train you in a classroom or on a campus, a mentor-apprentice (extern) film school will place you as an apprentice (extern) inside a real film production company, where you will learn the ropes by working on actual film projects, under the personal supervision of a seasoned filmmaking professional. It’s a great way to learn the business while gaining work experience and making connections, and you can see why it could put you in a better position to land a job afterward.


The bottom line is, if you want to become a filmmaker, then filmmaking school isn’t automatically the answer; the answer is to get the education, connections and experience you need in order to make it.