Why Bother With Film School
Caveat Emptor (That's Latin for "Buyer Beware")
In recent years a film school degree has become a better and better route to getting into the film industry. Especially as the cost of filmmaking equipment has fallen, the film schools have been able to offer much more hands-on experience which is the way you really learn to be a good filmmaker. But you still need to be prepared to work smarter and harder than you might need to do in some other professions.
Some people seem to think that film school is an easy route to fame and fortune in Hollywood.
If that's what you believe then you need to get real!
There are two things you can get from film school if you apply yourself: The knowledge of how to make films and future helpful contacts.
Show Business has always sounded like an exciting place to work and there is an endless stream of people going to Hollywood hoping to get their piece of the action. A film degree alone won't get you a job.
In fact you don't even need a degree from a film school to work in Hollywood. It helps to open the door, but persistence, hard work, famous relatives, experience, talent, luck and contacts are usually the way people get ahead in the filmmaking industry. You simply can't work as a doctor without a medical degree, but in Hollywood many of the top earnering filmmakers got there without setting foot in film school.
Over the years I have heard many people complain about what a disappointing experience film school had been for them. But most of those people had misconceptions of what they could expect when they graduated. After all, film schools are in the business of making money. It's up to you to get real and start your filmmaking studies with a plan and realistic expectations.
So let's get real about what you can expect. It helps to start with some history.
A little film industry history
The first film producers in California at the start of the 20th century imported most their talent: actors, writers and directors, from Europe or the east coast. Eventually they started apprentice programs to create new talent. But the apprentice programs were expensive and in 1929 they joined with the University of Southern California (USC) to establish a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film.
The filmmaking students got to pay for their own education and the studios got to pick from the best and brightest to fill their ranks. The film schools made a profit and saved the studios a lot of money. It was a win-win for both of them. Less so for the students.
At first there was little glamour associated with going to film school because the students knew they were going to trade school, and would have to work in the industry for years before they would have a chance at the big time.
In the 70s everything changed
For years the film industry continued to be dominated by a closed club of old white guys filling every creative and managerial position. Then in the 70s a revolution occurred when a few young film school graduates, including Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, started creating blockbuster hits like Star Wars and Jaws.
The studios had never seen such profits. They realized that the young filmmakers were much more in tune with the tastes of a huge, untapped youth market. Suddenly everyone coming out of film school was in demand.
Of course the studios soon figured out that not every film school student was an undiscovered genius and the hiring binge stopped. But the mystique stuck that going to film school was a sure path to fame and fortune.
Why does anyone want to go to Film School?
Admit it. In large part it's just the glamour factor. Telling someone at a party you're going to film school gives you a better chance of scoring than telling them you're goal is to be an accountant.
Who benefits from film school?
A co-worker of mine explained this. She attended one of the top three film schools but didn't work very hard. She had a classmate, who was a close relative of a very famous director. The classmate arrived at film school with a completed script and quickly became the darling of the professors.
They helped him polish his script and encouraged him to use the school's equipment, film and classmates as crew to create his first film. He worked very hard, only partied to make contacts and after graduation he got a good job in the film industry with the help of his many contacts.
My co-worker friend never made a film. She completed her assignments, graduated, and got a succession of exhausting, low-level jobs in the film industry but finally went back to school to become a nurse.
Clearly film school works for people with the drive, talent and ambition. (And the right connections don't hurt.) If you think that describes you then send in your application and good luck with your career. If not ... read on.
Now you're getting real
If your odds are small should you just give up the idea of ever being a filmmaker?
Not at all!
There're many ways to a satisfying career as a filmmaker and film school is certainly a good route if you can get in and you can afford it. You'll still need drive, talent, the ability to make contacts and more than a bit of luck. When you try to get work it will be your work samples and contacts that get you hired, not the degree.
Before you (or your parents) sign that big check to get you into film school be sure you ask a lot of questions of the school.
- What are the qualifications of the professors?
- How many of the professors have actually worked in Hollywood? Have helped make a produced and distributed film?
- What percentage of the students find meaningful work in the film industry?
- What is the average starting salaries for graduates and what are the typical jobs they get?
- Will you actually get to make films?
Useful Sites for Filmmakers
Library Of Annotated Film Schools Filmmaker.com has a site where you can find extensive feedback from film students describing their experience at all the top film schools. Don't even think about signing up at a film school until you've surfed this site.|
If you can't afford film school or aren't accepted don't give up hope. There are many sources of training such as online film courses, local community colleges, appreticing with small companies in the film and video fields and, of course the completely free film schools at 4Filmmaking.com and FreeFilmSchool.Org. You'll have to work to make the contacts who will help you get ahead.
If you're not going to be welcomed in Hollywood what other options are there?
There are far more opportunities for filmmakers and videographers working outside of the Hollywood mainstream. As an independent filmmaker you can follow your passion to carve out your niche in the world. The cost of equipment to make films has plummeted and new opportunities for distribution are opening every year.
Do you know who George Lucas is?
He's an independent filmmaker who lives and works on a beautiful ranch in Northern California and has as little to do with Hollywood as he possibly can. He's the worlds most successful independent filmmaker and has all the power, fame and fortune anyone could want.
There are many other independent filmmakers, some highly successful, who work mostly outside of the Hollywood system and get to control their own destiny. Wouldn't you like to be one of them?
Every year some young filmmaker, who may have barely finished high school, manages to create a brilliant new original film that wins all the awards at Sundance, and Hollywood welcomes them with open arms. "Nothing succeeds like success" is doubly true in Hollywood.
If you truly have the passion and talent to make films then do it your own way, however you can. Go for your dreams with everything you've got. Never give up.
Plug For A Friend
My friend Seth Hymes offers an incredibly good, inexpensive course on the basics of filmmaking along with his foolproof strategy for breaking into the industry.
And Happy Filmmaking!
Other sources of filmmaking training
There are a lot of way to learn about filmmaking. If there aren't any good, cheap classes available in your area here are some excellent, comprehensive resources you can get.
Film School Secrets Review - Better Than Top Film Schools?
Film School Secrets is the online film school course that has finally gotten everyone questioning the value of film schools. You may have heard some buzz about this or seen articles elsewhere. A lot of former film school students are saying "About time someone spoke the truth!"
Assembled by former top film school students, a former NYU film school instructor and working filmmakers, this course reveals the two biggest dirty film school secrets: the best film schools are outrageously expensive for what you get, and are next to useless for getting a job in filmmaking.
If you are even slightly considering going to film school please do yourself a favor and check out the course that everyone is talking about while it is still available.
The Film School Secrets course is currently available at a low introductory price but don't let that fool you about it's value. It is chock full of easy to follow, but vital information, that you could only learn from filmmakers actually working in the film industry.
The heart of the course is an eight module set consisting of hours of video training:
Module 1: How the film industry actually works and why even top film school grads are considered a joke by most working filmmakers and film studios. With the right strategy you can get your career started now and be taken seriously for a lot less time and money than going to film school.
Module 2: How to get onto film sets and be paid to learn. The only way to learn how to make films is by working side-by-side with people who are making films. Nothing you could be told at film school replaces the actual experience of helping to make a feature film.
Module 3: Learn all the filmmaking technique you need to know to get started. Most working filmmakers will tell you it only takes a few hours to pick up the basic techniques. Lighting, sound, and camera operation just aren't that complicated.
Module 4: Essentials of a great screenplay. How to tell stories that people will pay to see. How to find experienced professionals who will help you polish your script to perfection.
Module 5: How to cheaply hire experts to handle the things you haven't learned yet. Making a film takes more than one person and here's how to connect with top professionals who will help you for a lot less than the cost of film school, or even for FREE if you know how to ask.
Module 6: Shoot your movie locally like the big studios are doing. Being in Hollywood is actually a disadvantage if you want to make a movie. Shooting where you live can lower your costs to practically nothing.
Module 7: How to successfully produce your own movie even if you've never done it before, have no equipment and barely know what you're doing.
Module 8: How to sell and distribute your film taking advantage of the latest in online marketing and digital distribution.
An important part of Film School Secrets is Seth Hymes' hilarious exposé book, Film Fooled, which takes you course by course through his actual experience at NYU film school, one of the top ten film schools in the world. Nothing will convince you of the uselessness of film school quite like getting to read the often infantile curriculum taught by bumbling instructors with almost no filmmaking experience.
You also get a copy of the NYU Production Handbook. NYU would like you to believe that this book alone is worth the cost of tuition. You get your own copy included at no extra charge.
I have also thrown in a copy of my complete 350 page Filmmaking Reference that regularly sells for more than the current cost of Film School Secrets all by itself. That's how much I believe in this course and want you to check it out before you seriously consider an expensive film school.
But there's more:
The course includes interviews with real working filmmakers spilling the secrets of exactly how they broke in to exciting jobs in the film industry. These are a blueprint for how you can succeed, too.
Finally the course includes the ability to contact and ask questions of the authors of the course for no extra charge. Priceless!
How Does Film School Secrets compare to what you get from a top film school?
- The only filmmaking course that teaches the actual techniques for getting onto professional sets and creating a career in filmmaking.
- Following this course and taking action on what you will learn will literally save you years of your life and thousands of dollars getting started as a filmmaker.
- Far less expensive
- You will complete the training in a matter of days
- This is not a complete course in filmmaking techniques. Many basics are taught but you may need to supplement this course with some other low-cost, or free instruction on film making techniques.
- The materials are presented in online videos while some students might prefer all the materials to be in a printed manual. However the videos are very clear and easy to follow.
- You friends and family may not take you seriously until they see your name in the credits on the big screen
By the time you finish this course you will understand why film school is the last thing you need to become a filmmaker, and know alternate real-world strategies for getting started, plus you will have contact with experts who can help you along the way.
There is a comprehensive 60-day, no questions asked, money back guarantee so there is absolutely no risk. Get this course before the price goes up ... or the film schools are able to get it banned!
What are you waiting for?
Dare To Be Spectacular!
Click on this link to learn all about Film School Secrets.
The Filmmaker's Basic Library has all the top-rated filmmaking resources.