Want to become a famous film director or film producer? If so, you might be wondering whether you should become a film major at a college or university with a good film school. It seems a reasonable enough thing to do; one would assume that earning a film degree would add credibility to your resume and show people, not only that you’re educated, but that you are serious about a film career.

But before you go tens of thousands into debt to enroll in a film school, there are some hard realities about the film business that you need to consider:

  1. Degrees are essentially meaningless to the film industry. Many film producers and directors, in fact, find success in this business without ever receiving formal training. Having a degree will not make you any more viable as a job candidate than someone who doesn’t have one.
  2. Experience and inside connections are more valued than formal training. Someone with prior experience and recommendations will almost always be hired over a film school graduate with no experience.
  3. Many film school graduates struggle to get hired. This is because film schools train their students in isolation, where they can’t make the connections we mentioned in point 2.

Let’s boil this down to dollars and cents. To be a film major at a major university, you can count on spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000 to $100,000 for a bachelor’s degree. If you’re like most people, you can’t afford to pay this up front, so you’ll have to go into debt to get this degree. Ironically, however, this degree you’re paying so much money to obtain has essentially no value to the film industry itself—and without the ability to make connections, you’re still going to have a hard time getting hired in film once you graduate. If your degree won’t impress anyone, and won’t get you hired, then the overall value of that $100,000 degree is…ZERO.

The point is not that you shouldn’t get educated, but simply that there are other ways to get educated, ways that can take you a lot farther toward having a successful film career. One alternative that many film students are now considering is the mentor-extern approach to education. A school using this approach will place you as a student extern inside a real film production company, where you’ll receive personalized training one-on-one from a working film professional. This gives you the chance to learn the ropes of filmmaking from inside the industry itself, participating in actual film productions with the guidance of a mentor. It also enables you to make valuable industry connections that you would not make in college, plus it is a much more affordable way to go to film school.

The truth is, you don’t need a degree to make it in film; you just need a good blend of education and connections. Being a film major won’t necessarily do this for you, but becoming a film apprentice will.

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