Some would argue film school is absolutely important to anybody looking for a career in visual storytelling arts; most notably in screenwriting, producing, and directing. Others would say that film school is just a large waste of time that ends up costing you a lot of money and nowhere as promising a future as you had hoped it would. To an independent filmmaker such as myself where do I stand on the matter?
Here is perhaps the best answer I can give to the question – That there is no definitive answer.
That’s right. There is no definitive answer regarding film school, the question and answer all varies per person and what they already know and want to know.
Suppose you have been experimenting with film production as far back as you can remember, you’ve got a whole library of books that explore the entire production process of a film, you’ve got access to enough filming equipment, editing software, and you are doing a fairly good job at getting your name out there(film festivals, social media, person to person interaction, etc.) and above all else you know how to tell a truly effective story – Is film school worth the investment? Most employers you meet with probably won’t take much notice of what school you went to learn your craft unless it was some prestigious place like the UCLA or New York Film Academy and even then reactions might be “oh wow, that’s a very good school…” and that’ll be pretty much the end of it. What will really get you a sweet gig is the promise of what you can bring to the table as well as a pretty nifty resume from the tip of your fingers.
Today’s digital age has made it very possible for many aspiring filmmakers who want to their share their voice with the world. HD Camcorders, DSLRs, even phones can be used to make a film of your own and have tons of features that can make something ordinary look extraordinary. Better still, editing software released on the market currently can allow you create your own visual effects that can make your $50 dollar short look and feel like it cost hundreds to thousands.
The digital age has also made it easier to get your name out there and network with other people with professional careers in the entertainment industry who might just be looking to invest or collaborate with a fresh exciting talent.
On the other hand…Going to film school or going towards a degree in film production might assist you in several areas you might not have considered in the first place before enrolling( The more you know, the better). Sure, you might hear some things you’d expect to hear from instructors like “No matter what…Story and characters come first” but the possibility of hearing something different is there as well. In my honest opinion the best way to look at an education in film production is really based on the student and what they aspire to learn, if you know what you want to study meet with your academic advisor and discuss your educational goals. Going to film school, going towards a degree in film production also presents networking opportunities as you’ll be able to meet other students with similar career goals who you could collaborate with on future projects(be they for class or on your own time).
Film school is not available to everyone though, and not every school has film production for a major, however, there’s still a good chance you’ll see a few courses that are related to film production that you can take that could count towards your degree or bounce up those general education credits. This was the case for me at the first school I was enrolled in – film was not a major, but through good guidance from my academic advisor I ended up taking courses that were related to film production one way or another and I ended up taking an internship at the television station in my hometown which eventually earned me a job there as a producer/editor/graphic designer. My internship at the station, in addition to some of the courses I was taking in college, made me eligible to compete in the SkillsUSA Digital Cinema Production competition in 2013. Both me and my project partner represented our school at state and the video we shot and edited won and we both went to represent not just our school but our whole state at SkillsUSA nationals in Kansas City, Missouri later that year. Though we did not win nationals it was a very good experience and built lots of character.
So the answer to the question is really up to you to decide – Do you think you need an education in film or do you feel you’ve learned enough and have enough going for you that you don’t really have a need for it? In either case its always important to network with other people and try to form relationships, you should try to build up a profile and promote yourself both on social media and in your hometown. The more your establish yourself as a creator of content the more interested people will be to hire you for a gig, try not to be picky about what they might want you for the more experience you get under your belt the more established your style will become and the more likely people will recommend you to others. It is very important to not look at any gig as just “a gig”, look at it as something huge and try to add your own flare to it that’ll make it stand out from anything similar – take the ordinary and turn it into the extraordinary.