Do You Need a Los Angeles Film School?

November 18, 2011

Those who dream of becoming a film director, film editor, film producer or professional screenwriter may be wondering whether they need to attend a Los Angeles film school. After all, Los Angeles is the home of Hollywood, the undisputed center of the film industry. Doesn’t it make sense that film schools near Hollywood could offer more opportunities than film schools in other places?

Not necessarily.

While it is true that Hollywood itself can offer more opportunities for filmmakers than other places, that doesn’t automatically mean that attending a film school in the Los Angeles area will give you a better shot at those opportunities. The reality of the film industry is that it is highly competitive, and that it lives and breathes by connections. It doesn’t matter where you went to film school—if you don’t have industry connections, it is nearly impossible to land a job in the industry. The sad part about most film schools is that they follow a traditional format which educates students in isolation, away from the actual film industry for which they are studying. This means that attending a Los Angeles film school is no more likely to help you get industry connections than studying in any other film school in any other part of the world. Education is one thing; industry connections are another matter.  This is why for the few people who actually make it in Hollywood after attending one of LA’s film programs, there are many others who never get their break.

The importance of industry connections is so critical to finding work in film that there are actually quite a few success stories where famous directors and producers “made it” without ever attending film school at all! They succeeded, not because of their college education, but because they were able to form connections to the industry and learn the ropes from people who were actually working in filmmaking.

What does all of this mean? It means that learning in Los Angeles can benefit you, but only if you are able to form connections to the industry itself—not just attend a Los Angeles film school.

There is one alternative worth considering, and that is the mentor-apprentice approach. A film school utilizing this approach (Film Connection, for example) will actually place its students inside real film production companies, where they receive one-on-one instruction from a seasoned industry professional using a structured curriculum. This approach helps students gain both the experience and inside connections they need while they are learning, so they can actually do something with their film education.

The bottom line is that to make it in Hollywood, you need both education and connections. A Los Angeles film school can educate you, but not necessarily connect you; the mentor-extern approach, however, can do both.

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