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What’s the Point of Going to Film School?

02/29/2012

Taking into consideration the numbers of famous film directors who do not have a formal education, you might be wondering: what’s the point of going to film school? Why spend tens of thousands of dollars to earn a degree that is essentially meaningless to the film industry and affords no guarantees of success—especially when so many filmmakers are now finding success apart from it?


The answers to these questions have a lot to do with why you are thinking of going to film school in the first place. If your goal is simply to earn a degree, you might as well save your money, or at least find a major where a college degree is more essential (law or medicine, for example). With the film industry, it simply isn’t that important; no one is really going to care what kind of degree you have (if any).


If your goal in attending film school is to find industry connections, again, you’d be better off saving your money. Most film schools don’t have that many connections to the film industry; in fact, most of the connections you’d make there would be with other students, who eventually will become your competition!


The fact is, a college degree is not essential to a career in this industry—but industry connections are. So what’s the point of going to film school only to get a useless degree and no connections?


Here’s the balance: you might do without film school, but you can’t do without an education. You need to learn the art and technical skills of filmmaking, whether or not you learn them by getting a formal education. So how did the successful filmmakers who avoided film school get their training? By making movies. By getting into real film production companies and learning on the set.


How do you accomplish this? There is an alternate form of education that can help. A film school that uses the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach (like Film Connection) will place you as an apprentice (extern) inside a real film production company, where you will go through a structured curriculum one-on-one with a working film professional. This essentially duplicates the method by which many successful filmmakers learned before film schools even existed. It also helps you gain those all-important industry connections, because you’re working on real productions as you learn.


Film school isn’t necessarily your enemy; it just needs to serve a greater purpose than just earning a degree. It needs to be a means to an end, not an end unto itself. What’s the point of going to film school? It is to get an education and to get launched into your film career. Keeping this in mind will help you pick the right one.

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