Continuing from where we left off in the last part.
DEBT AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
I think the only advice I’d give people is to not go into debt for the sake of film school. At least not in the US, and especially not school loans which can’t be eliminated by bankruptcy anymore.
Literally every single person I know with an art degree is either working outside of their art field on something else to pay back the loans, or in loan default and unemployed.
A film degree is a pretty severe risk.
That’s not to say there are not advantages of film school. Just that I suspect those advantages are diminishing returns after the first serious film class lets you rub shoulders with both other film students and professors, which can open the door to networking.
As well as that, it gets some of your work seen, and lets you access their equipment just by taking one single class.
WHAT ABOUT EQUIPMENT?
Just don’t go to film school expecting equipment to make it worthwhile. You can purchase most of what you need for under 5k to make a basic movie.
If you’re thrifty enough, you’ll get a dolly and perhaps a jib in there at that price. For less if you take into account the kind of equipment you’ll get at film school.
I don’t think that going to film school simply to get critiques is a good idea either. You can get critiques from something like YouTube and filmmaking forums. While they’re not in the same quality of critique, there are a lots of talented filmmakers on forums who can give you unbiased feedback from people not worrying about keeping your student dollars flowing.
ARTISTIC EXPRESSION AND LIFE AT FILM SCHOOL
If you’re an aspiring writer/director with a desperate need to express something, film school is a bad idea. It’s better to just buy a camera and just start making movies.
That’s the best way to get to know the work and yourself because you’re completely on your own, which is very scary but you have to learn to live through that.
On the other hand: if you just want to work in movies and earn a living, a film school can be good because you have a good chance to live a safe life working in television or something similar. That is possible through the networking opportunities mentioned earlier in this article.
WHAT ABOUT ANOTHER OPTION?
I’d also like to offer a secret option C to “film school or not film school”.
I’ve always thought that photographers, filmmakers, and people in general sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron.
As an equipment hoarder, I’ve found that money spent on workshops where I can work with industry people in a learning environment gets me farther than buying one more lense.
For example, Ive taken workshops that were a day long, and workshops that spanned weeks. I’ve been able to pick and choose the instructors, and I’ve had the chance to work with dive photographers, National Geographic producers, and Discovery Channel crew.
I’ve been able to select the equipment that I want to learn, and experiment with how techniques work in my existing workflow.
You’ll pick up a lot of tricks of the trade at a good workshop run by people that actually have first-hand experience in whatever industry you wish to enter.
Workshops would be a good compromise between the structured learning you’d get from a film school, while not crushing the ‘need to express something’, which is a tremendous insight.
A good workshop will give you a brief enough pause in your creativity to determine which direction you should go.
The next time you’re plunking down hard cash for a shiny, new camera, do a cost-benefit analysis to figure out if attending a workshop or seminar on filmmaking would be a better return on investment.
We’ve got the next part coming very soon.
Thanks for reading!
Here are the other parts in this series on Should You Go To Film School?