Film Schools: Necessary?

College: for some, it’s a word that inspires fear and nervousness; for others, hope and excitement. Whichever way you react to the prospect of applying to and attending college, you’ve likely been raised knowing that you’d at least go, right?

In today’s world, it seems ridiculous not to go to college. But is it necessary when going into film?

Recent decades have seen an outcropping in the popularity of film schools. In some ways, this is great: they’re places to foster a sense of belonging while working on what you’re passionate about. However, they’re a complete waste of time and money.

While often hailed as centers for the promotion of modern creativity, film schools often have outdated curriculums and equipment. NYU, a prominent school in the field, hasn’t updated most of its curriculum since the 1960s (filmschoolsecrets.com), and students use older models of cameras.

A film degree, while it may seem like an all-access pass to helping direct the latest Wes Anderson film, is nothing more than an expensive piece of paper. In fact, most people in the industry don’t like to work with film school graduates; they tend to be know-it-alls who act like they’re above those that they work with.

On the other hand, people who passed on film school and instead came straight to Hollywood with their director’s reel in one hand and a one-way ticket to California in the other are much more open to working in new ways and trying new things, which is what fuels the movie industry. Imagine if every film followed the same overarching storyline and only used the tried-and-true cinematography techniques!

Film school hopefuls may be rolling their eyes and thinking to themselves, “What about making connections?”, and I can assure them that there is… absolutely no truth to that point, either. Who do you plan to make connections with, exactly? Other students who are trying to make connections? Sure, if you’re looking to work in a crew, connections with future directors could be helpful — after all, there’s not too much variety between one sound guy and the other. However, if you’re aiming to be a director (as I’d assume most film school students are), connections won’t help you advance in the industry — talent will. No one ever got a movie deal just because they knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy; they got in on talent. There may have been occasional instances in which a famous actor or director got a friend or family member a movie deal, but how often have you seen a career based solely on connections and not talent take off?

The bottom line is that while film school may sound dreamy, there are other, better options out there. If you don’t want to take a chance and go with one, you’re not ready to dedicate your life to film.