In a field that evolves as fast as the film industry, keeping up with the latest skills and qualifications in demand can be daunting. While there is no single way to make a career in filmmaking, film school is an exalted stepping stone that many aspiring artists have a preference for. A penchant for structured education systems, along with the hands-on practice and experimentation-oriented learning experience that film schools provide make them a big contender for people inclined towards a career in cinema. So should I go to a film school?
It’s a big decision, and there are a lot of things to consider before making your final choice. To that end, let’s discuss five important factors that you need to think about before enrolling in film school. We’ll talk about what you should be looking for in a film program, who you should be learning from, the professional prospects and networking opportunities available to film students, and what film school can teach you. We’ll also take a look at whether or not film school is a smart investment for your career. So, if you’re on the fence about going to film school, read on!
1. What Are You Looking For In Film School?
Of course, it goes without saying that filmmaking is an art form that can tell stories in ways no other medium can. It’s a challenging and rewarding career that can take you all over the world. But it’s not easy to get started. That’s where film school comes in.
Film school can offer a variety of different educational experiences, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for before making the decision to enroll. The first choice to make is whether you are more interested in a more traditional academic setting, where you’ll learn about film history and theory or if you would prefer a program that focuses on hands-on production, giving you the opportunity to make your own films.
Some film schools offer both options, while others lean more towards one end of the spectrum. It’s important to find a program that matches your interests and aspirations. As you will be spending a significant portion of your time and money on that degree, it is extremely crucial to pick one’s areas of interest with great deliberation. Thinking about what you want to achieve from your career may make the choice clearer. Be it specialising in the technical aspects of filmmaking and majoring in a specific field right away, or wanting to learn a bit of everything — the first goal is to identify what you want.
2. Who Do You Want To Lean From?
One of the best things about film school is that you get to learn from some of the best filmmakers in the business. Clearly, not at film schools will offer a level playing field in this regard. Some have more prominent faculty members than others. Another deciding factor is also the kind of learning curve that the school may espouse. Some schools will lean towards an experimental, practice-based approach that centres around watching and making films. Others may benefit from a more traditional method of instruction that delves into extensive theory as well. It’s important to do your research and find a school with instructors who inspire you and whose educational structure is a good fit for you.
Big names in the industry may sound impressive, but one needs to reflect upon their chosen field of work, and carefully think about what skills you are hoping to learn. Talking to alumni from schools that you may have shortlisted will also be a massive help in this regard.
3. Professional Prospects And Networking Opportunities
The film industry is a notoriously difficult field to break into, with inbred hierarchies and an infamous penchant for hiring insiders. However, film school can give you a head start by providing access to prominent film professionals. Many film schools have relationships with major studios and production companies, who often come in to speak to students or offer internships. Additionally, film school provides an opportunity to meet other aspiring filmmakers from all over the world, many of whom will end up being lifelong collaborators and friends.
You will also form lasting relationships with classmates and peers, with whom you will be working on your thesis film, and many other projects. A strong network of alumni will help get your foot in the door when it comes to consistent jobs, or interesting independent projects. It pays to be courteous and modest too, as word of mouth goes a long way in such a tight-knit, if occasionally intimidating, industry. It’ll be immensely helpful to look for film schools that espouse a strong focus on building networks and placing students under the tutelage of respectable institutions and mentors.
4. What Will Film School Teach Me?
Film school can teach you a variety of specialised skills, but in general, they provide an introduction to the film industry. This may include a foundation in film history, theory, and production. It will also be helpful if the school of your choice has a culture of watching and studying a variety of films, as it will help you grasp the finer points of the art.
Additionally, film schools often offer courses in other disciplines such as marketing and business. This can be a valuable asset for filmmakers who want to start their own production companies or work in other areas of the film industry. Some schools also offer a side-by-side degree program, where one can graduate in subjects such as history, marketing or design. If you want to balance your program with a few back-up choices, this may be a good option.
5. Is Film School A Smart Investment For My Career?
For some people, film school is a necessary investment if they want to pursue a career in film. For others, it may not be worth the cost if they’re only interested in making their own films. This decision will not just shape your creative output, but it will also be a major economic decision. To that end, one needs to ask themselves just what they are hoping to gain from film school.
It may seem indispensable if you’re seeking connections in the industry, or want to pursue a career in film studies. But, it is important to keep in mind that it is not the only way to equip yourself for actually making films. Advancing technology and experimental filmmaking have got to a point where we can make films on a phone as well.
There you have it. These are some things to carefully think about before enrolling in film school. These are by no means the only factors to consider, but they’re certainly some of the most important. Make sure to do your research and ask lots of questions before making a decision. Some of the most influential directors of our time, like Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan and Steven Speilberg, are self-taught filmmakers. So, know that while film school can be an amazing experience, it’s not the only way of doing things.
What advice or experiences would you like to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!
An avid reader and a life-long lover of blue skies, I like to spend my time with obscure poetry and dissecting films. Currently besotted with Maupassant, art history and all things Nolan, you can find me spacing out to Queen while I look for new things to obsess with.