Should I go to film school? Is probably the biggest question that young filmmakers continue to ask year in and out. The internet is already full of opinions and videos trying to address this question but I thought I would place everything here all linked in one post to help you out.
Unless you know me already, my name is Amy Clarke this is my filmmaking blog. I previously worked in the UK film industry as a script supervisor. I studied Film and TV Production at Liverpool Hope University. From my own experience this particular degree was not well delivered, nor did it help myself with finding work. I don’t regret my choice to study film, but I do wish I had researched what the best film schools where near me and chosen a better place to study.
In the film industry your work experience is more valued than education however this does not mean that a degree in film is useless. In this following article I will try and answer all of the questions you may be having on film education.
A film education might just be the best option for you. If you need any extra help with making your decision or if you have any advice on this subject for others, feel free to leave a comment below this post.
I also have researched a list of the best film schools and courses in the world for you to download
Should I go to film school – the ultimate guide
Film School Vs University
There is a slight difference between a Film School and University / College Course but ultimately the quality of education is what matters.
A University will teach a range of subjects on its campus and a Film School will only teach Film making. Film schools may have better equipment, may offer more practical lessons and provide contacts within the film industry.
It is also typical for people to do an initial degree at a University and get their Masters at a film school . Film schools are also more likely to have mature students. Just because a film school focuses solely on filmmaking does not make it a superior choice. A good university may attract better teachers, better resources and have a better reputation.
Before choosing any film course do some background research into the institution first.
I got into film school. Over the course of two years, I got kind of good at it. You know, I had a brief moment where I wasn't sure if I could do it. I didn't even know you needed light to expose film before I went to film school - Barry Jenkins
What will you get out of a film education?
Some people love the classroom environment, its where they learn best. For others further education offers the experience of meeting like minded people and the chance to have fun with film making before they need to be making an money from it.
If you are young university might be the first time you are away from your parents and free to be an adult, this can be a priceless experience. Some people are lucky to come out of education with knowing more on their subject, having made great friends, connections in the industry and with work experience. Some people love their university experience but for others it never meets their expectations. I find that some people in life simply prefer working over studying.
Have a look at the course curriculum in full. You may be studying anywhere from 1-3 years, are the course subjects what you expect. What equipment is available, does the course offer practical film making lessons.
Trying to make a feature film yourself with no money is the best film school you can do - Quentin Tarantino
Do I need a degree to be a filmmaker
When it comes down to it practical work experience is more important than an education in film. There are just as many filmmakers that are pro film school than there are against it. The arguments against film school tend to come from the Sundance generation Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson - however the film industry has changed considerable since the 90s. If you want to be an independent film director you stand more of a chance making it on YouTube.
With the industry surplus with newcomers there is no argument against film school that really holds grounds. We just don’t know if the filmmakers of tomorrow will have formal education or not. For this consider all the pros and cons of film school before you reject it altogether.
You will never need a degree to be a filmmaker but it still might help you.
I studied at Film School, I found that the only way for me to make films - because you need people and you need equipment - so I had to be a student - Asif Kapadia
If you don’t go to film school what will you do
If you don't continue with further education – what is your next move? You are not required to have a degree to get a job in film. Finding work in film is tough, highly competitive and if your young and inexperienced this might prove too difficult. I found as I got older it was easier to be taken seriously when hired.
Working in film at young age is not impossible you can get your foot through the door with an entry level job, you may even get a head start. If you choose not to continue education are you willing to do the hard work to make a career in film happen.
Can you afford it?
Every country has a different way of dealing with student debt. In the UK we only need to start paying back student debt after we are making £21,000 a year (2018). In America this will depend on the student loan you get out.
Every film course will have varied costs, every country a different pay back system. Check out the costs and pay back requirements before you study, lots of people get a higher education these days it is not impossible, be sure to ask the money questions before you enrol. There are also scholarships available for top film schools and grants that can help. Some Film schools and University’s offer workshops and more affordable short courses.
The real trouble with film school is that the people teaching are so far out of the industry that they don't give the students an idea of what's happening - Brian De Palma
PROS – A formal introduction to a new career, meeting people with the same interests as you, practical experience, opportunities for work experience, initial contacts in the film industry, access to film making equipment
CONS – Tuition may be expensive, might not deliver work experience or be helpful when making contacts, having a film degree could make it more difficult to get a job outside of film if you change careers later on, film making can be self taught
What film school should I go to
Get the best education you can find.
How far are you willing to travel? We all have different lives, perhaps you are willing to move country or maybe you have commitments such as a job or family to consider. Whatever your situation do some prior research into the best course available in your chosen location.
This could be either a university or film school – check out student reviews and ratings. You could also ask previous students about their experience (Twitter is a good place to find people). If you can - visit the place of study first and meet the lecturers in person ask about the course curriculum and what equipment you will have access to as a student.
Chances of getting a job with a film education
Arts degrees are often snuffed by the media (irony?), yes these days getting any job is hard and a film degree might not help when applying to a job outside of film. If you have a film degree on your resume and switch careers you may be asked in interviews - 'Why did you study Film?'
Having a film education might not help when applying to jobs outside of film and media. There is chance you might change careers later on in life. I have found however that employers do understand if you reply honestly - in my case this was 'That I changed my mind and prefer a more stable job'.
There are a mix of Pros and Cons to the question should I go to film school. Education is not a one size fits all. The 'No Film School' mantra comes from Sundance directors whose teaching may not apply to the next generation of filmmakers.
Do your research before enrolling, most importantly pick the best course in your chosen location. As long as your not getting into crippling debt over film school what harm will it do?
I hope this post has been helpful to you. Please leave your opinions and questions on the subject below. I will happily answer to all comments I receive. Amy
You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms