Is Film School Worth My Time and Money?

This article was published on Dream Row’s website on May 21, 2012.

Is Film School Worth My Time and Money?
By Nicole LaChance

One of the most important decisions aspiring filmmakers will ever have to make is whether or not to go to film school. Unfortunately, it is not an easy decision to make. There is an abundance of information out there, all saying different things about the costs and benefits of going to school. Even noted directors have taken different paths when it comes to film school. Martin Scorsese used the resources film school provided to make several short films and collaborated with fellow graduates to make his first feature film, Who’s That Knocking At My Door. Steven Spielberg, however, dropped out of school to become an unpaid intern at Universal Studios, during which he made his first short film. With all this information, how do you decide?

The Case for Film School

One of the main benefits of film school is the connections. Going to film school allows you to form relationships with teachers and fellow students that those who do not go to film school may miss out on.  In film school, you are taught by people who work in the industry and have many valuable contacts, said horror filmmaker Sara Caldwell  in a video.

In addition, great film schools have great alumni, and most will make those alumni available to students. Many film schools are eager to show off their famous alumni any chance they get, noted director, producer and writer David LaMattina on the Copper Pot Pictures’ blog. Going to film school is great for networking, which is invaluable for your career.

Film school teaches you the basics of working equipment. For those who have no idea to use a camera, Final Cut Pro, sound equipment or anything else that goes into a movie, film school will teach you how to use these things, most likely on sophisticated equipment. Playing around with equipment and learning exposure techniques is great benefit of going to film school, said filmmaker Alexander Fox on his blog.

Going to film school can also help to direct your focus. If you want to be a filmmaker, but are not sure what discipline is right for you, film school will allow you to take classes and work on projects to see what is right for you. LaMattina originally went to school to be a director, but was able to experiment with other disciplines and discovered a love of producing and writing. It also gives you an opportunity to fail at projects while in school, instead of failing in the industry, said screenwriter Paul Chitlik in a video about the subject of film school.

The Case Against Film School

There is no denying it: film school is expensive. Many film schools are private and one can easily spend $100,000 on a bachelors degree. For many, this cost is very intimidating, especially since most film school graduates will have to take low paying jobs for their first few post-graduate years. For some, the debt of loans is so great that they must take jobs outside the industry in order to pay them off, noted filmmaker Kristian Colasacco on his blog.  The money spent on film school can instead go into financing film projects, said director Len Esten in a post on his blog about why directors do not need film school.

It used to be that film school was the only way to have access to expensive equipment. But that is no longer the case, noted current film student Jason Kohl on his blog. Basic equipment can be purchased for a relatively minimal cost, and there are many books and online guides that allow filmmakers to teach themselves.  The years spent in film school can instead be spent making films without the distraction of classes and school requirements.

If you choose not to go to film school, it is important to start working at entry level, such as a production assistant.

“If you pay attention to what everyone does with the setting up of equipment, lights, etcetera, you can certainly learn,” said filmmaker and actor Lee Vervoort. (http://www.leevervoort.com/ )“ In my opinion, it’s just as good as film school, you just don’t have an instructor. This is how I learned and eventually utilized these skills to make my first movie.”

You should also play around with equipment and learn how to use it. Colasacco recommends trying out iMovie and Moviemaker, basic editing programs that come on most computers. Fox suggests getting a DSLR or EVIL camera and just start shooting and developing material for your reel. If screenwriting is more your thing, Chitlik encourages aspiring screenwriters to just keep writing and honing their skills.

For all filmmakers, two of the most important things are experience and ambition. Knowing how to make films and having the drive to succeed in the industry is the way to a successful film career. Whether it would be best for you learn these skills through film school or on your own is a decision only you can make.

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