Film School: Pros and Cons

September 13, 2015
film school

by Ian Cumming | Content Producer, CLICKON

Is film school worth the hefty price tag? What do you actually learn in film school? Are your chances of directing a feature film higher if you have that degree on your wall?  Do I really need to study the craft for 4 whole years?

There is an ongoing debate on whether film school is worth it. Interestingly, many successful film directors, such as Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, and Christopher Nolan,  never went to film school, while acclaimed directors Terrance Malick, Michael Bay, and Martin Scorcese, attained degrees from some of the most prestigious film schools in the United States.

As someone who studied film theory and production for 5 years, I can say that there is some incredible value in studying the craft in an academic setting.  Others say skip it, buy a camera, and just start making movies. We’ll let you decide…

PROS

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1. You’ll meet your future collaborators

Your fellow classmates may be the same people you work with twenty years from now in the big leagues. They’re there because they love the craft too. You’ll develop relationships with other talented people that could last a lifetime.

2. You’ll learn how to work with others

In film school, you’ll wear many different hats, and will have to learn how to both give directions and take them. Film is the epitome of collaborative art, and in order to succeed, you’ll have to work with others.

3. Access to equipment 

One great resource in film school is the access to film equipment. Knowing how to use a variety of cameras will increase your skills and chance of scoring production assistant positions and internships.

4) You get that diploma

At the end of the day, you’re still getting that valuable piece of paper. Even if you don’t pursue a career in filmmaking post-graduation, having a degree  from a good film school will undoubtedly help you stand out in the marketplace.

5) You’re in a creative bubble

Film schools like Purchase College and NYU surround you with creative people like yourself. From dancers, to musicians, and designers, take full advantage of the fact that this might be the most creative community you’ll ever be a part of.

CONS

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1. Film school is expensive

4 Years at NYU is approximately a quarter of a million dollars. Which leads me to the next point…

2. You’re delaying pursuing your own projects

Instead of taking 4 long years to learn how to make a film, you could be spending those 4 years actually making your film.

3. Go to the library!

When Michael Bay was at Fullerton College, he went to USC library and read about filmmaking day-in and day-out. There’s a lot about filmmaking that you can just learn from books. Did I mention that a library card is free?

4. Most production companies don’t care about your degree

They care about your portfolio and if your skill set will solve the needs of the given position, not where you went to school.

5. You don’t need a film degree to be a Hollywood director 

While you can learn a lot about lighting, cinematography, and great editing in film school, great directing cannot be taught. Great directing is having a incredible vision for a story, and confidently and effectively conveying that story to your cast and crew under remarkably  difficult and strenuous circumstances.