Why Film School Rankings Don’t Really Matter



7/3/2012

If you’re considering going to film school, you may be looking at film school rankings to see which schools are the best to attend. Various publications and review websites make this information available, ranking schools according to various criteria.


While it makes sense to want to attend the best film school possible, the truth is in many cases, these rankings don’t matter that much. The reason? These rankings don’t take into account the most critical factors that make film school worth attending.

THE TROUBLE WITH FILM SCHOOLS

The primary problem with film schools in general is that they train people in isolated environments away from the “real world”—namely, in classrooms and on-campus production facilities. The reason this poses a problem is that the film industry is a business in which connections and experience are the keys to success. The truth is, your college degree will not impress anyone in this business, no matter how highly ranked your school happens to be. The people doing the hiring want to know what projects you’ve done (experience), and they want to know who you’ve worked with (connections). You won’t gain either experience or connections in most film school programs.

Film school rankings may tell you which schools are most popular with students, which schools have the most extensive facilities, or the strongest academics. But they won’t tell you whether the school can offer you the chance to connect to the film industry, or to gain real work experience; these things just aren’t measured or valued. And yet, these are the very things that could make or break your chances for success!

THE ALTERNATIVE

There are alternative programs available which can give you the chance to gain the experience and connections that you need while you get your education. One alternative worth considering is the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach. There really is no better way to learn filmmaking than to study one-on-one with someone who makes movies for a living. Thus, a school using the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach will place you as a student apprentice (extern) in a real film production company, where you’ll receive this personalized training from a seasoned professional. Not only does this approach teach you in a more efficient way than classroom instruction does, but it also enables you to gain real work experience in the industry, and enables you to form vital working relationships as well. This approach isn’t often found on the ranked lists, but it can certainly put you in a better position to have a film career.


Lots of film schools can teach you the rudimentary skills, but what really matters is whether the school can help you launch a career. That takes a combination of experience and connections, which you won’t actually find in most film programs. This is why film school rankings don’t really matter.