The Film School Snare, and a Film School Alternative
Many aspiring film students do not realize that there is a film school alternative, a way to get educated and connected to the film industry without paying the high tuition costs that traditional film schools charge.
It is frequently assumed that (as is the case with other professions) the best way to launch a film career is to attend film school. These courses range from career-focused certificate programs lasting a few months, to advanced college degrees that take years to complete. Many people assume that earning a degree in film adds prestige and credibility to a resume, and gives students a better advantage in the film industry job market. However, not only is this untrue (many successful filmmakers never went to film school), but unfortunately many film students run into a potentially career-crippling snare when enrolling in traditional film programs.
This snare has to do with the way traditional schools educate their students, combined with a high cost assessed to that education. The film industry is very practical and relationship-based, and is not actually impressed with degrees. The people who do the hiring in film primarily fill their job openings through prior industry connections. (Who you know is practically more important than what you know.) Traditional education, on the other hand, insists on placing students into isolated environments to train them, where they cannot make those industry connections needed to make them competitive. Thus, when they graduate, quite often those film students have nowhere to go.
What complicates this even further is that most film students must take on large amounts of debt in order to afford film school—a huge risk anyhow, considering the unpredictable nature of the film job market. So when these film students graduate and find themselves without any job prospects, they often take dead-end jobs to pay their debts. Many never actually make it into the film business.
What, then, is the film school alternative? To train “on the set”—that is, in real film production companies, where you can gain both the experience and connections you need.
Think about this: there is nothing a traditional film school can teach you that you couldn’t learn more effectively on real film projects—and the best place to form industry relationships is in the place where movies are made! (Not to mention it costs much less.) Many film students are now looking at on-the-job film apprenticeship (externship)s as an affordable and effective alternative to formal education. For those who do not have the inside connections to land these apprenticeship (externship)s on their own, there are now film schools like Film Connection that use the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach, placing their students for one-on-one instruction inside real film companies.
There are many schools that teach filmmaking, but don’t fall into the snare. There is a film school alternative that can launch your film career without crippling you with debt.