At one point in every filmmakers career, they had to face a decision: should I go to film school? or not? There are positives and negatives to both going to film school and not going. While it’s ultimately your decision, let’s see if we can help find out what is right for you. In this four-part series, we’ll cover the ins-and-outs of film school, including positives and negatives.
Going to Film School
After graduating from high school, it is almost a right of passage that every teenager looks forward to – searching out colleges that are right for them, applying, and finding out whether you get in. Once you get accepted (or not) you decide what school you want to go to. It is part of a process that millions of Americans have gone through. Along with choosing what college you go to, it gives people the opportunity to get out from under their parent’s roof and become more independent and responsible. It gives people the opportunity to learn more about themselves and find their identity in the world. However, with this new found responsibility also comes a lot of other things, most importantly, the massive debt brought onto a college graduate and/or their family.
What it comes down to is whether or not you feel comfortable with taking on that debt, and if you feel as though a degree will provide you with the monetary compensation to pay back that debt upon graduation. Some degrees offer almost a guaranteed job right out of college with a set salary to expect. Others, not so much. A degree in film production is by no means a guarantee for fame and fortune.
More often than not, people find themselves working part time jobs, living in their parent’s houses until they get on their feet. A full time job in the film industry directly out of college is very rare. To get a full time job in the industry you have to have a lot of experience with multiple different aspects of film production. You need to have a thorough knowledge of the equipment, the crew and positions, and you have to have the maturity to work on a set with other professionals who rely on you to perform your duty.
What are the positive aspects of going to film school?
The biggest and most important piece of advice in the film industry is “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Networking is the most important thing you can do to find paying jobs. By working with multiple people, and widening your friend and colleague network, you will meet people who will open up other projects for you. By surrounding yourself with other people who have a similar mindset you will be able to focus on working with people you connect with and can work with those you believe will succeed. If you surround yourself with hard working, determined people, you will naturally push yourself to work at the same standards.
Experience with Equipment
Every college with a film program should have an extensive library of equipment you can use. From professional cameras to lighting kits and audio recording equipment, it gives you the opportunity to get hands on experience using the equipment to create your projects. Once you graduate, renting equipment becomes extremely expensive. By telling people you have experience working with the best cameras it gives people the confidence to hire you.
Time to Mess Up
In college you are given the opportunity to be more experimental with projects. You can try new shots, new angles, new lighting, and it won’t have a profound effect (maybe a lower letter grade) but this allows you to get creative with new shots without being under pressure from a producer who needs every shot to be perfect.
By going to college you can decide what city you want to live in. You can go to New York City, Los Angeles, or Boston to study film and work with other students who are interested in the same thing as you.
Going to film school allows you to work with professors who have a passion for teaching film. You can go to them for advice, questions, and concerns without feeling the scrutiny of asking the same questions on set. It also allows you to build relationships that you can always fall back on after you graduate. If you build a good relationship with your professors most will write you recommendation letters and help you in your job search.
Like Minded People
Sometimes you just need to grab a camera and go film something. It might not be good, but its better to be out there filming than doing nothing. By surrounding yourself with directors, writers, and actors, everyone will want to help you with your project. Ask people to help you with your project and you will be surprised at how often people say yes.