Which Los Angeles Film School Is Right for Me?
November 18, 2011
If you’re looking at trying to break into Hollywood as a film producer or film director, chances are you’ve been trying to decide on the right Los Angeles film school. Understandably, there are many from which to choose, ranging from full college undergraduate and graduate programs (like UCLA) to specialized master-level training (like AFI Conservatory) to various smaller trade schools. Which one is right for you?
There are a number of obvious factors you’ll need to consider, such as cost, number of openings, and the intensity of the training. However, one other thing you need to consider is the balance the school provides between quality of education and accessibility to the industry itself. No matter how comprehensive the film program, it does you little to no good if you have no industry connections when you graduate. (It’s sort of like being “all dressed up with nowhere to go.”)
The fact is, with most film schools that use a traditional approach, there are some inherent flaws and gaps you will have to overcome. While the film industry runs on connections and networking, the entire approach of traditional education is based on isolation—bringing students into a separated space (like a classroom or simulated studio) to train them. The problem with this approach is two-fold. First—you can learn technical skills in a simulated environment, but you cannot learn the real-world dynamics of thinking on your feet in a real film shoot, because the circumstances are too easily controlled. Second—you can make no industry connections in a classroom environment, and no connections means no jobs. Thus, you need to be certain that whatever Los Angeles film school you select has found a creative way to bridge these gaps, so your tuition money is not ultimately wasted.
One way to bridge the gap is to learn these skills on actual film shoots and in real film production houses. People with connections have been doing this for many years; in fact, chances are some of your favorite film directors never went to film school at all! There is now a learning method that offers this kind of opportunity. A school that practices the mentor-extern approach (Film Connection, for example) will place you, the student, directly inside a film production company to learn as an extern from a seasoned film industry professional. You will learn all the skills of filmmaking while working on real projects, giving you real-world experience, plus the chance to form industry connections along the way. This learning greatly improves your chances of getting a job in the industry when you graduate—and because there is no campus or equipment to maintain, the tuition is much lower, as well.
Technical skills are not enough; you need connections to make it in this business. When considering a Los Angeles film school, think about a school that uses the mentor-extern approach, so your time and money is put to the best use possible.