Let’s be real: regardless if you decide to attend a formal film school or not, you’re still going to be a disappointment to your parents. As a person who graduated with two Associates degrees in film and TV production and an actual Bachelors degree in cinema, I feel like I at least have the right to say that. But now that’s out of the way, let’s discuss the age old question – is film school actually worth it?
- It’s okay to make mistakes. If you mess up during one of your student shoots, it may cost you your grade and/or pride, but at least you won’t cost a client or production company actual money. School is a great place to make mistakes and actually learn from them without having any real world consequences.
- Network opportunities! While I suppose you can network when you’re actually working on a paid gig, school is another place to branch out and connect with your fellow classmates who may also be new to this industry. As long as you’re not obviously forcing yourself to make inauthentic connections (and trust me, you can tell who these people are), I’ve personally found that some of my longest lasting connections and even friendships came from folks I met at my college’s film department. Heck – Cinovation Productions would not have formed if we didn’t meet at De Anza College!
- You can rent and try out equipment for free. Maybe it’s different for other schools, but in my experience you can rent about anything for free from your school’s equipment room as long as it’s for a school project. This is a good time to get hands-on practice with a lot of gear that you may not otherwise have access to. Really take advantage of this learning opportunity if you can!
- Build your portfolio! While every student project may not exactly be an “award winning” short film, school is a great way to really expand your portfolio. Future gigs may want to see previous camera work or your editing skills, so attending film school and working on as many film projects as possible can be a good start to your résumé.
- There’s a lot of corporate full-time video jobs that prefer you to have a degree. Coming from personal experience, if you want to work full-time doing video in-house for a company, they usually want to hire someone with at least a Bachelor’s degree. While I realize a degree doesn’t necessarily reflect one’s actual knowledge on a subject matter, do keep in mind this is something that companies just prefer for some reason.
- It’s expensive! Regardless if you’re obtaining a film degree or chemistry degree, formal schooling is going to cost you the big bucks. And it’s completely understandable if you want to skip obtaining this piece of paper and go straight into working in the industry.
- You can learn independently for cheaper or even for free. With sites like SkillShare or Lynda (not a sponsor!), it’s definitely possible to learn the same skills you’d get from a film school for way cheaper. Plus, you can learn on your own time and at your own pace. Which is great if you also have a job or other prior commitments in your life. But don’t limit yourself to just these paid sites! There are plenty of kind folks on Youtube that offer tutorials FOR FREE. Even though I went to film school, I learned a lot of editing tips and tricks from free tutorials just posted on Youtube.
- You can learn a lot of skills on the job, rather than in a classroom. Somewhat related to learning independently, you can learn A LOT just by working as a production assistant. Your classes might not necessarily teach you important skills such as how to set up a nest, do a lock up, proper radio etiquette, etc. But actually being on set will teach you these skills.
- Most jobs on set don’t require a degree. In my experience, it’s extremely rare for folks to ask to see your degree or résumé before they hire you for basic PA work. If a colleague refers you for the job, you’re basically in!
Did you go to film school yourself? Or did you go straight into working in the industry? Let us know your experience in the comments!