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How Important Is Filmmaking School? A Practical Approach

01/07/2012

How important is filmmaking school to the career of an aspiring film producer or film director? The answer might surprise you.


Consider such famous filmmakers as Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Christopher Nolan, and David Fincher. What do these and many others like them share in common? None of them went to film school.


It’s true. Every one of them achieved success without going through a formal filmmaking program. This can only mean that going to film school is (at the very least) not a prerequisite for success in the film industry. In fact, in most cases, no one will even care if you have a degree or diploma, as long as you can do what you claim to do (hopefully with a track record to prove it). In other words, when you apply for a job in film, having real-world experience in filmmaking will always weigh more than a degree from a filmmaking school.


Here’s something else to consider: many professionals in the film industry believe it is actually better to learn filmmaking on real film productions rather than in classrooms and simulated studios. Why? Two reasons, actually. First—learning in real film production companies gives you the work experience that is so valued by the film industry; and second—learning in the real world also gives you the chance to form working relationships and industry connections (which are also vital to getting jobs in this business). Most film schools can teach the technical skills of filmmaking, but fall short when it comes to work experience and industry connections. This is why many professionals have completely bypassed film school, and why many consider it better to apprentice (extern) in real film studios rather than go to a formal school.


Now, when we suggest that filmmaking school is not all that important to your career, we are NOT saying that education is unimportant. All the successful filmmakers mentioned above still needed some way to learn the skills required to make movies—and so do you. It’s just that there are other ways to get that education than by enrolling in an overpriced, overrated film program. If you don’t have the inside connections to get yourself an apprenticeship (externship) at a film production company, another way to do it is to enroll in a film school that uses the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach. This learning method will provide a curriculum and place you under a mentor in a real film production company, effectively combining your education with real work experience and industry connections, and greatly improving your chances for success.


The bottom line is that film school is important only if the school can truly help you launch a film career. If you find a filmmaking school that can give you an education, experience and connections, you will be well on your way.

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