What a Film Major Needs More than Schooling



6/27/2012

If you’re thinking of becoming a film major at a college, university or other film school, you’ve chosen an exciting and potentially very rewarding career. You’ve also chosen a very competitive field, one in which you should use each opportunity to its greatest advantage. The fact is, many film students learn the technical and creative skills of filmmaking, but far fewer actually break into the business. Obviously, it takes more than just a good film school education to make it in film.

What do you need that a film school can’t provide you? To boil it down, you need two other things:

  1. You need to accumulate a body of work experience; and
  2. You need to be connected to the film industry itself.

Why are these two things so important? Frankly, the film industry as a whole has no regard for college degrees or diplomas. This industry is very relationship-based and results-oriented, and while there are many aspiring filmmakers clamoring to get attention, only those who are well-connected really get a chance to prove what they can do. Schooling alone may teach you how to make movies, but it won’t necessarily give you the opportunity to prove your mettle in the industry. Many a film major has graduated with virtually no job prospects, and eventually had to settle for non-industry work in order to pay off a huge mountain of student debt.

So how do you cross this gap? How do you gain the work experience and industry connections you need in order to succeed?

There’s basically only one way to do it: get your foot in the door. You won’t make connections or gain work experience until you actually find your way into the film production companies and start working on actual film projects.

Obviously, this is easier said than done. (If it were easy, everyone would do it!) But there is an alternative type of film school that can help you. If you enroll in a film school that uses the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach, all of your schooling will actually take place in a real film production company. You will be placed with a seasoned film professional who will teach you the ropes one-on-one during real film projects. This gives you the chance not only to get a film education, but also to start building real film experience while forming valuable working relationships within the industry. In short—learning film within the industry helps to make you an industry insider, putting you in a much better position to launch your career.

If you are serious about becoming a filmmaker, don’t just settle for being a film major; make it your aim to get connected to the industry. Becoming an apprentice (extern) is a great way to do just that.