Why Does Film School Cost so Much?

If you’ve considered going to film school to become a filmmaker, you probably already know that one of your biggest hurdles is the film school cost. Earning a college degree in film at a college or university can easily cost as much as $100,000 or more, and even career-focused trade school programs can run anywhere from $20,000-$70,000 to attend. Why is film school so expensive—and even more importantly, is it worth the cost?

There are a few reasons why film school can be very expensive. Of course, the cost of formal education is skyrocketing in and of itself, so regardless of your major, you can expect to pay more these days. But film school has its own set of issues, especially when the school trains you according to a traditional education format. Traditional education is based on teaching students in isolated environments before releasing them into the “real world.” When it comes to filmmaking, in order to teach you, the school has to re-create the type of environment in which you would be working as a film director, film producer, film editor, production designer, etc.—that is, it must build a simulated production facility, with all the equipment and software you’d be using in the “real world.” As you can imagine, this can be very costly. Additionally, if the school is a private institution, it won’t receive state funding to offset its costs, so the costs will inevitably be passed to the students. All of these factors taken together are usually what makes film school cost so much.

What makes this even worse is that for all the money you could spend on your film education, you could still have trouble finding work when you graduate. This is because when you train in an isolated environment, you aren’t making any connections to the film industry itself—and industry connections are VITAL to getting work. This has prompted many film industry professionals to question whether formal film school training is even worth the cost. In the eyes of many within the industry, you’d be better off learning the ropes in a real film production company where you could at least form some relationships.

One type of film school, however, is breaking with the norms, and has devised a way to educate film students more affordably by externing them in real film production companies. The mentor-extern approach, as it is called, allows students to be trained privately by real working professionals on actual film shoots, giving them the chance to make industry connections while they are learning—and because there is no simulated environment to maintain, the cost of education is a fraction of what most schools charge. Film Connection is one school that uses this approach.

As expensive as film school can be, there is a way to learn filmmaking while making your money count. You can beat the film school cost by learning in the real world.

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