Film School: is it Worth it?

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Cinema Bandit is devoted to supplying young and new filmmakers with resources, articles, and interviews to help artists develop themselves creatively and professionally.

As lovers of film, we are always trying to find ways to own our craft and to make ourselves better. We study different films; we create our movies, we read up on different directors, producers, writers, etc. to get a glimpse of what influences them to create their stories and bring them to life on the big screen. We as filmmakers and lovers of film strive for the knowledge of cinema and how we can be a part of film history.

As stated in my previous article, What Is A Producer?  I wrote about how many filmmakers went to film school before starting their careers. Famed film critic Roger Ebert went for his doctorates before beginning his career as a full-time critic.

The big question for any future filmmaker is if going to film school is worth the time and money? This article will break down the pros and cons of going to film school to help ease the minds of those taking the big step in going to school.

The Pros

1) Knowledge and Criticism – You’ll learn about the history of film, but you’ll also be given a chance to create your projects. When presenting your work, you’ll get feedback from your professors and fellow students on what they liked about your film or how you could make it better.

2) Guidance – Professors are your friends. They will give you the tools you need to make it in the film industry as they have worked or gained knowledge about film and media themselves. Professors are also a great resource for recommendation letters and they also can supply you with connections and possible jobs.

3) Growth – With the amount of work that you do, you’ll be able to push yourself to meet your deadlines and challenge yourself to create work that you’ve never thought you would do.

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4) Support – Not only do the professors provide significant guidance and support, but you’ll also find the help of your classmates that in the end will become lifelong friends. Many colleges have specific groups to join, like media societies or clubs.

5) Experimenting – You always want to think outside of the box when creating your film. And at school, you have the freedom to do that and express who you are in your work. Film school is also the place to experiment with different equipment such as lighting, audio, and various types of cameras while also working on different positions in a film crew like producer, director, and cinematographer.

6) Access to Equipment – Take advantage of this! Most schools will have their equipment room for you to have access to when you are working on your projects be it for class or your kind of work. At times, the rental fee of the equipment is added to your tuition.

7) Diversity of Classes – Many schools will require you to take classes outside of your major.  You can take up courses in writing, film studies, or even literature classes. Best form advice is to find types that you will have interest in, and that can challenge you, not one that will get you an easy A.

Cons

1) Money – Isn’t it always? A college degree, in any major, can be expensive. Those who come out of school are left with vast amounts of debt to repay and are struggling to find jobs within their field. Though finding the right one takes time, it is best always to have a backup plan which is why you should take classes that you have other interest in.

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2) Production Companies – Most production companies don’t care what kind of degree you have. Instead, they look at your body of work, and your skills will be good enough for hire. They want people with the right amount of talent and personality that they can depend on to get the job done. Always keep a portfolio of your work for employers to look. Again, finding the right job takes time so don’t feel down if you don’t get the job.

3) Negative attitudes – Many people leave school with a sense of entitlement, and sometimes have an overly competitive edge to them. Everyone moves at their own pace, so don’t be discouraged if a peer has more credits or project under their belt. Everyone has their interest and creativity. Be the students who encourage one another to reach their potential, not the ones who are defensive, judgmental, or entitled. Your fellow students are also your first film connections; don’t burn bridges at the beginning of your career.

The road to becoming a filmmaker is long and tedious, but the reward is always the greatest. Whether you go on to film school or not, it is important to remember that you have a set goal and you are the one who is in control of your destiny. Continue to learn and grow and take criticism. It will help in becoming the best filmmaker that you can be.

Daniel Zuaro is a graduate of Buffalo State College with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Production with a minor in Film Studies. He has always loved studying film that he wishes to pursue a career in which he can write about film or even teach about film and its history. He is a Long Island native who loves music, spending time with family and friends, food, and his cat Harvey Milk.

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