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What Makes the Best Film Schools?

05/15/2012

Aspiring filmmakers all over the world are looking for the best film schools—those schools which are highly ranked and whose curriculum promises to prepare them for a successful career in film. If you’re going to choose a career path, it’s natural to want to attend the best school that you can in order to prepare for it.
 

But the question is: what makes one film school better than the others? What are the criteria that make certain schools the “best” among their competitors?


Many assume that film schools are best rated by their academics, or by how challenging the curriculum happens to be. However, since the film industry is a technical/creative field (rather than an academic one), it is hard to judge a film school on academic value alone. The fact remains that some of the highest ranked film schools in the world still turn out graduates who struggle to find work—not because they aren’t well educated, but because the film industry ultimately places no value on degrees or diplomas.


Others might assume that the best film schools are the ones who have the most up-to-date equipment—the ones that can most successfully duplicate what a film student will encounter in the “real world.” But this also poses a problem, for two reasons. First—there’s no way to actually duplicate the “real world” in an isolated, controlled environment like a classroom or on-campus production facility, no matter how updated the equipment is. Second—the film industry is a very relationship-based industry, and film students can’t make the necessary connections to the film business while studying on an isolated campus. As a result, many film school graduates still struggle in the job market, simply because they don’t know enough people within the film industry.


The reality of the film business is that someone with experience and connections has more credibility than someone who graduates from a formal film training program. So let us suggest that the best film schools aren’t necessarily the ones with the highest academic rankings, but rather the ones that will actually help students gain the experience and connections they need in order to succeed at a practical level.


To that end, one type of film school worth considering is a film school that practices the mentor-apprentice (extern) method of education. This method is based entirely on training film students in the “real world” by placing them as apprentices in actual film production companies. The film student is paired with a working film professional who guides him/her through a curriculum while working on actual film projects. This method provides not only the academics, but also the experience and connections that are so vital to helping a film student become employable in the industry.


Bottom line: academics, equipment or ranking do not make one film school better than the rest. The best film schools are the ones who have a practical approach to connecting their students to the film industry.

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