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Why Filmmaking Schools Don’t Help Your Career

02/29/2012

If you’re checking out filmmaking schools in pursuit of a career as a film director, film producer, or film editor, you’re not alone. Careers in film have become quite popular in recent years, and film schools receive thousands of applications each year.


However, before you commit to a film school, and before you invest all that time and money, you should know that going to a filmmaking school won’t necessarily help your career. While an education in film is certainly important, in some cases film school can be more of a liability than an asset. The fact is, large numbers of students are graduating from film school all the time with huge loads of student debt, and no real job prospects. By the same token, a significant number of famous directors have found success in film without attending film school at all—including names like Peter Jackson, David Fincher, and Quentin Tarantino, to name a few. At the very least, it’s safe to say that filmmaking schools present no guarantee of success—and apparently, NOT going to film school is no guarantee of failure, either.


Why is it that so many film schools fall short when it comes to preparing you for a career? Here are a few of the main reasons:

  1. Most filmmaking schools have no direct connection to the film industry itself, and/or cannot help their students make those connections. No matter how good the education is, it is nearly impossible to get a job in the film industry without connections—so without connections, the education is basically worthless.
  2. The traditional methods used by most film schools include training students in isolated environments, where they cannot gain real-life experience. Degrees alone are irrelevant to the film business, and people with experience are preferred above people with a degree/diploma when it comes time to hire.
  3. Most film schools are very expensive, weighing students down with huge debt just when they are trying to start their careers.


The upshot of all this is that for many film school students, having no experience and connections makes it difficult to find work in film—and the debt load often drives them into dead-end jobs as a result.


The reality of the film business is that you need an education, but you need MORE than just education. You also need experience and connections, and these are two things film schools generally don’t provide—with one important exception.


An alternative worth considering is a school that practices the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach (that is, placing students as apprentices in real film companies rather than college classrooms). When your training occurs on-the-job, as it were, you DO get the experience and connections you need—and this method usually comes at a much lower price tag, as well.


The key is to be wise in choosing your education path. Filmmaking schools don’t help your career unless they can also help you gain connections and experience.

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