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Is Film School Worth It?

02/25/2012

If you are thinking of becoming a film director or film producer, you might be asking the question: is film school worth it? With so many directors these days succeeding without having gone to film school, is it worth the cost of tuition to earn a degree in film?


It is definitely a question worth considering. Not only are there plenty of successful directors who bypassed film school (among them Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino and James Cameron), but there are also plenty of film school graduates who never make it in the film business. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on a film school education when it is obviously no guarantee of success, and when there are so many people who are succeeding without it?


The film industry is actually a very practical, hands-on profession, not an academic one. This means that at the end of the day, what is going to make you successful as a filmmaker is not whether you went to film school, but whether you can make movies. Where you learn filmmaking is not all that important, as long as you learn it. (Even the directors who bypassed film school learned how to make movies in some way.)


The question lingers: is film school worth it?


Because the film industry is such a practical field, a structured film school education is really only worth it if it accomplishes two things:

  1. If it successfully teaches you the skills of moviemaking; and
  2. If it successfully connects you to a career in film.

One other drawback with most traditional film schools is that even if they teach the skills effectively, they are not really connected to the film industry itself—and without connections, it is very difficult to get a job in this business. One reason why many industry professionals recommend on-the-job training over traditional film school is that learning on real film shoots helps you make connections while you learn. An alternative learning approach called the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach is actually helping to bridge the gap between film education and the film industry. Instead of placing students in classrooms or simulated studios, a mentor-apprentice (extern) school actually places students as apprentices in real film production companies, where they can go through the curriculum while working on actual film projects. This approach gives students the experience and connections they need, along with an education, better positioning them to launch their careers. (It also costs considerably less than most film schools.)


The bottom line is that you need a film education and you need connections—but it is possible to get both of these without going to film school. Is film school worth it? Only if it ultimately helps you launch your filmmaking career.

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