What To Look For In A Film School

If you’re interested in filmmaking then undoubtedly you’ve considered the possibility of film school or some type of film training program. Unlike other professions, filmmakers are not required to attended film school to start work in the industry. Film professionals of all types have opted not to go to film school and have nevertheless achieved prestigious positions within film companies or have made the decision to write and direct their own films.

There is a 50 / 50 split when it comes to opinions about the importance of film schools. Some filmmakers say that film school is a waste of time because it is so focused on theory and that students should be in the field creating films and not in a classroom trying to interpret other filmmaker’s films.

The other 50% say that film school is a valuable asset for filmmakers because it allows filmmakers to learn all of the ropes of filmmaking. They won’t just learn about cinematography. They’ll learn about theory, budgeting, screenwriting, composition, lighting, directing actors, marketing your films and so on. Likewise, they argue that film school allows them access to a huge assortment of talent and equipment that would otherwise be too expensive to buy or rent.

To truth is that film school is good for some and not as good for others. Many people who against going to film school have achieved their education on the sets of music videos, commercials and films. For them their education was very hands on and practical. However, others who haven’t had access to big productions, film school may be of more importance. It will give you a crash course in the artistic and technical elements of the craft.

Likewise film schools differ in various ways from one another. Some filmmakers really want to get into the theory of it and don’t mind taking a 4 year degree program. Others are eager to get out in the field and start working. For them, 4 years is too long to be stuck in a classroom and they opt for a shorter 3 – 12 month program that will teach them the fundamentals and send them on their way.

Choosing a film school is no easy task. It usually involves a big financial and time commitment. The most important thing to do before enrolling in a film program is to ask yourself what your goals are. What do you see yourself doing in 1 to 5 years from now? Then ask yourself about the smartest way to achieve that goal. You may realize that the connections and hands on training that a film school provides is just what you’re looking for as a future filmmaker.

Top 5 Film Schools And What Sets Them Apart

Having gone to film school three times and being a member of a family where education was held in the highest esteem, obviously I am a fan of becoming film educated. However, I do stress becoming “educated”. School is not the only way to become educated, and in certain situations, there is no official school to learn critical information. Never the less, school is a time tested successful method for laying down a formidable foundation.

The Big Five

The Big Five films schools are The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), The University of Southern California (USC) and The American Film Institute (AFI) on the West Coast in Los Angeles, and New York University (NYU) and Columbia University on the East Coast in New York.

UCLA is best known for their writers who dominate the summer movie screenwriting credits, USC is better know for their powerhouse directors, AFI often has incredible cinematographers, NYU is heralded for its East Coast filmmaker style, and Columbia is an all around great school with exceptional film theory for all programs. Any school you go to at the Big 5 will be an incredible experience for each program. You will also have big name professionals and heads of big companies teach courses or speak as guests because of the school’s notoriety. You can’t lose.

The downside to USC is that they run it like a studio. Only 5 people get to direct a thesis project if you’re a graduate directing student. Every directing student comes in to be one of those 5 and then 20 or 30 people in the end don’t get a thesis project, but get to help crew on the 5 people who did get to make one’s film. The upside to USC, is again, that they run it like a studio. USC is often unparalleled in its networking capacity and markets its students aggressively to the industry.

UCLA is most known for its screenwriters. USC might be capable of out-networking UCLA, but its writers can’t out-write UCLA writers. An average UCLA Graduate Screenwriting student will leave with 8 feature length screenplays. UCLA screenwriters write a feature-length script in a 10-week quarter, which most resembles a real life 8-week writing assignment. USC screenwriters will write 1 feature-length screenplay over a period of 1 year. You do the math.

The Peter Stark Producing Program at USC is great for producing movie executives, but the UCLA Producing Program is great for teaching producers everything there is to know to go out there and just start doing it.

Similar to USC’s “only 5 will direct a thesis project”, AFI is even more hardcore. Not only are there are a limited number of thesis projects, not every filmmaker is always invited to come back to school for a second year. It’s harder to get into any of these film schools than it is to get into Harvard Law School, simply because Harvard takes a higher percentage of its applicants than the big film schools do, so for me AFI and USC really wasn’t worth getting cut or snubbed over after you had to already defeat the odds of winning the lottery to even get accepted. Having to win the lottery a second time just wasn’t desirable.

Other Film Schools

Another school worth mentioning is Florida State University, which accepts an equal amount of writers, directors, cinematographers and editors so they can form teams for thesis projects. This seems to make the most since. Temple University in Philadelphia is great, and a must-apply for experimental filmmakers.

But in general, any film program is a great film program as long as you are learning.

NYC Film Schools

A city of distinct cultures, street music, landscaped parks, neon lights, and bookstores, New York has always been a highlight among tourists from all over the world. The city has also been a hub of a number of renowned film schools. With all its dynamic aspects, New York City is always bustling with life and thus providing a perfect backdrop for filmmaking and many such challenging careers. It is believed that the city itself helps the aspiring artists and filmmakers in shaping their artistic vision and serves as an ideal setting for their stories and films.

The film schools in New York are spread all over the city, offering easy accessibility to the students according to their preferred locations. Both long and short-term courses are available to meet the specific needs and preferences of individual students. Special provisions of short-term summer courses are hosted at other locations such as Princeton University, Harvard University, and Disney MGM studio at Florida, Florence, and Paris by some of these top film schools. Courses are particularly designed keeping in mind the interest areas of the students offering flexibility of choice. Some of the various streams from which students can specialize in the field of film education include directing, editing, digital filmmaking, 3D animation, producing and acting.

The schools encourage and admit students, irrespective of their culture, background, race, occupations, age, and ethnicities. Student scholarships and financial aids are provided to both international and domestic students to help them in completing their education. However, the scholarship facilities are subject to certain eligibility criterions decided by the school authorities. The course curriculum and the fee structure vary from one school to another and can be checked and compared prior to the admission.

Exciting summer camps and workshops are an integral part of most of these schools providing exposure to the various techniques of filmmaking. A host of qualified and experienced instructors enrich the students’ knowledge and guide them through the learning process. Additional events including alumni meetings are also organized and guest speakers are invited from specialized fields of filmmaking. Online application forms are available with all the information of the admission procedure to these schools. Students may also visit the school offices personally.