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Is Film School a Good Idea?

02/10/2012

If you’re a person who desires to have a career as a film producer or film director, you might be asking the question: is film school a good idea? While it’s certainly important to get some form of education, film schools can be quite expensive, and there are many graduates from those schools who never get their break in film. Add to that the number of successful filmmakers who never even went to film school, and it’s easy to wonder if it would even be worth the time and expense.


To be sure, there is evidence that points to the notion that film school might not be such a good idea. Consider the following:

  1. The film industry runs on connections (i.e., you need connections in order to get hired), and most film schools don’t give their students the chance to make those connections.
  2. A degree or diploma is virtually worthless to the film industry. No one really cares where you went to school, as long as you’re good at what you do—so it’s basically ludicrous to go to film school just to earn a degree.
  3. Film directors like Peter Jackson, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher and James Cameron found success without ever going to film school.
  4. Many film professionals believe that on-the-job instruction is a better way to learn filmmaking than going to film school.
  5. Many film school students graduate with no job prospects and a boatload of student debt, forcing them to take jobs outside their chosen profession.

Is film school a good idea? There are plenty of reasons to suggest that it isn’t. But let’s qualify this with a bit of common sense.


The fact is, getting an education in itself is never a bad idea. You need to learn how to make movies, how to pitch a script, how to budget, etc. It’s just that there are other ways to learn these things besides in a formal college classroom. If you can get an apprenticeship (externship) in a film production company, where you can learn the ropes while making connections, it might serve your purposes just as well. Even better, if you found a film school that was affordable and helped you make those connections while you learned, that would be a school worth considering.


Many film students have found a welcome alternative with what is known as the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach. Schools using this method are able to help their students make those all-important connections to the film business by actually placing them as apprentices in real film production companies. In this manner, they get connected to the film industry while they learn to make movies, at a cost that is much lower than most film schools, giving them a much better chance at launching a successful career.


Is film school a good idea? It is, if the school you choose can truly connect you to the film industry while it teaches you.

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