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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:

Answer by Benjamin Craig  |  Last updated 20-Jan-2005


Older Comments

Paarhati Ozkasgarli  |  19-Jan-2006
The answer for this question can not be given by anyone other than who is asking the question. I am co-owner of a stur-up 3D Animation and computer game development company in Turkey ( My partner has started to create a world like Tolkien's Middle Earth six years ago. He invited me in to the project 5 years ago. Since than we have worked really hard and we created 1400 pages of technical document that desribes World of Ceiron. (That is our world.) In 2005 September, we finally started the company we were having in our dreams for 6 years. Now there are 16 proffessional people working in the company and we are in connection with game publishers and venture capitals. If we find financial support, our project will started make a computer game the budged is 4 millions USD. I am sure we will find the financial support. But, reacently me and my partner figured out that I am not very suffecient to company. Most importently, if I am am going to stay and keep working for the company, I will kill my dreams of making movies. So he wanted me to decide go away. It took two days that I realise I need to go and become a film maker. Also my father in Turkey has very successfull business. He also wants me to work with him. But I decide to go to Los Angeles Film school. I made a choice up there. I beleive no one else than me can make that choice. So, if you want to be a film maker and you want to go to film school for that, that is choice you must make.