Should I go to film school?
Internet Filmmakers' FAQ
Well, that is the big question isn't it. Like everything, the jury is divided right down the middle on this one.
Obviously the biggest advantage of going to film school is "total immersion for an extended period of time." What this means is that during your course, you become deeply involved in filmmaking as a way of life (believe me, it is). Through this, you a) train your mind to think in a filmic way, and b) can make a pretty objective decision on whether film is indeed the career for you.
Another key advantage of going to film school is that you are getting an education at the same time, and more importantly, you are given the opportunity to think about what you (and others) are putting on screen as well as putting it there yourself. Any decent author will tell you, the wider your pool of knowledge, the more successful a writer you will be. This is true for filmmaking too; the more diverse a slate of cinema you are exposed to, the greater the tools you will have available to you when you come to make your own. George Lucas (USC) and Francis Ford Coppola (UCLA) are two examples of successful filmmakers who used film school to get their careers moving.
Of course, the big downer related to going to film school is the cost (particularly if you are in the USA). Tuition fees can be quite high (particular for private schools), and you often have to pay addition production consumable fees for your student projects. On top of this, there's of course living expenses for what will most likely be one to three years (and most decent courses have extremely intense timetables which make it difficult to rely on part-time work as a means of supporting yourself).
Many successful low-budget filmmakers have looked at film school from the point of view of, "Hey, it's going to cost me $20,000 a year in tuition for three years - I may as well make some low-budget features with that kind of money." This attitude has got many of the indie new wave where they are today. Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith are good examples here.
At the end of the day, whether to go to film school or not is a very personal decision. Some people will thrive in the educational environment, while others may find the rigid structures stifling. You need to think about it long and hard.
For further reading, we recommend checking out a couple of excellent articles on the subject in the Movie Maker online archives:
- Is Film School Right for You?
- Directors Debate: How Valuable is Film School?
- How to Make Film School Work for You