How Film School Fits Into Your Plan



01/03/2012

Thinking about attending film school in pursuit of your dream of becoming a film director, producer, or editor? If you are, you probably already know that film schools can be very expensive to attend, and some of the more well-known schools often are difficult to get into. If you don’t have the money, or can’t get accepted, are you out of luck? Just how important is film school to your career plans?


Let’s put this into a bit of perspective by looking at some interesting (and possibly disturbing) facts:
 

  1. There are many famous directors who never went to film school. This list includes such names as Quentin Tarantino, Peter Jackson, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, and many others. They simply found other ways to get into the industry and learn the skills.
  2. For every film school “success story,” there are many other film school graduates who never get their break. In many cases, this is because film schools and the film industry are two distinct communities, and one is not always connected to the other.
  3. Many film industry professionals feel that traditional schools waste your time and money. There is nothing film school can teach you that you couldn’t actually learn by getting involved in real film productions—and many film professionals believe this is actually the best way to learn.


What does this mean for you? Apparently, it means that attending film school is no guarantee of success, nor is a lack of film school a guarantee of failure. It also means that the best film education for you isn’t confined to the most expensive or exclusive schools, and your success as a future filmmaker has absolutely nothing to do with what kind of degree or diploma you happen to earn.


Basically, then, film school should fit into your plan only insomuch as it helps you launch a successful film career. And for that to happen, it needs to help you on three important levels:
 

  1. It needs to provide a quality, practical education. (Most film schools admittedly do this.)
  2. It needs to give you real-world experience opportunities. (Many film schools do NOT do this.)
  3. It needs to help you make industry connections, without which it is nearly impossible to get hired. (Most film schools do not do a good job with this, either.)


Since many film professionals believe you should learn “on the set,” one alternative to consider is the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach, in which the film school actually puts you in a real film production company for personalized training, rather than in a college classroom. It’s an excellent way to get the education, connections and experience you need, all at the same time—and because no campus is involved, it actually costs much less.


So if the prospect of getting into film school discourages you, take heart; there are many paths to success in this field. The mentor-apprentice (extern) approach could be a great alternative to film school.