To Film School or Not To Film School: Crash Course Film Production #14
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To Film School or Not To Film School: Crash Course Film Production #14

To film school, or not to film school? That is the question. Or it might be, if you’re interested in
becoming a filmmaker. And it doesn’t have an easy answer. Some filmmakers, like Francis Ford Coppola,
Martin Scorsese, and George Lucas, attended film school and have thrived making feature
films. On the other hand, James Cameron and Steven
Soderbergh have both won Academy Awards for Best Director without ever attending a single
class. Everyone’s experience is going to be different,
but there are some things that you can generally expect to get from going to film school. And with some careful consideration, you might
be able to chart a course that’s right for you and emerge as the next big thing. [Opening Music Plays] The world’s first film school was founded in 1919. As with many early film schools, the focus
at the Moscow Film School was on studying films that already existed, rather than actually
making movies. The theories developed by the students and
teachers in Moscow eventually gave birth to the Soviet Montage film movement
and movies like Battleship Potemkin and Man with a Movie Camera. In 1929, the University of Southern California’s
School of Cinema Arts was founded by early cinema big-shots like Mary Pickford, Ernst
Lubitsch, and D.W. Griffith. USC has maintained that close connection to
Hollywood right up to the present day, counting George Lucas, Judd Apatow, and Star Wars:
Episode 8 director Rian Johnson among its alumni. And in 1965, two major film schools were founded
in New York City: one at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and the other as
part of Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Although younger than the Southern California
schools, NYU and Columbia have caught up in terms of the success of their graduates. Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, and Brokeback
Mountain director Ang Lee all went to NYU, while Columbia boasts Hurt Locker director
Kathryn Bigelow, James Mangold who made 3:10 to Yuma and Logan, and Jennifer Lee, the writer
and co-director of a little movie called Frozen. These days, there are film schools in almost
every state in the United States, as well as in many other countries around the world. You can find them in big international cities
like Paris, London, and Beijing, to smaller places like Austin, Texas; Mahwah, New Jersey;
and Anchorage, Alaska. Some are well known, like the programs at
CalArts, the American Film Institute or AFI, or the University of California Los Angeles,
better known as UCLA. Others are hidden gems, like Emerson College
in Boston or Denver’s Colorado Film School. The point is: if you decide that film school
is right for you, you have options, no matter where you live. So what will you learn if you go? Film schools can be undergraduate or graduate
programs at universities, colleges, and community colleges. They might be free standing degrees at those
schools, or they might be housed in other departments, like English, Fine Arts, Theater,
Media Studies, or Communications. Most film schools will teach you to both study
and make films. Education isn’t necessarily just about practicing
a trade. It can also be about exposing yourself to
other ways of thinking, writing, creating, or watching. In other words, it can be a time for experimentation! Classes on film history, theory, and criticism
will introduce you to films, filmmakers, film movements, and various ways to think critically
about them. While courses on things like screenwriting,
cinematography, directing, and editing will give you the skills and experience you’ll
need to produce your own films. These same subjects are taught in many film
schools, but teaching methods can differ. Most schools follow either the conservatory
or liberal arts approach. Conservatory schools, like the American Film
Institute, the New York Film Academy, and to some extent NYU, focus on educating world-class
artists and technicians devoted to a single field within filmmaking. Very early on at a conservatory school, you’ll
choose a “track” with help from faculty and advisors, and you’ll study that subject
almost exclusively. You might decide to become an editor, a cinematographer,
a director, or a sound designer, and your classes and exercises will be geared toward
the craft, art, and technology of that particular role. As a result, conservatory schools tend to
turn out graduates who excel at their particular job and know it inside and out. If you’re looking for a broader understanding
of cinema and its place in the world, or you don’t yet know which track you want to pursue,
a liberal arts-based film school might be a better fit. In practice, liberal arts film schools offer
students the chance to try a variety of filmmaking roles, and gain a deeper understanding of
the whole filmmaking process, rather than just one specific part of it. And while students will still learn how to
line up a shot or make a rough cut, they’ll also be encouraged to think about cinema in
its larger cultural, economic, historical, and political contexts. Of course, you’ll also find film schools
that split the difference between these two approaches, providing a broad liberal arts
education for initial courses, and pivoting to a more track-based curriculum for the later
ones. So what does film school really get you? First and foremost: time. School gives you the time to focus on the
craft of filmmaking in a structured environment. Time to fail, learn from your mistakes, and
try again. And time to experiment and find your artistic
voice, while you’re given critical feedback from teachers and your fellow students. Depending on where you go, film school might
also let you move closer to a filmmaking hub, be it New York, Los Angeles, or even Chicago,
Atlanta, or Austin. Just being close to the action can be a powerful
motivator for aspiring filmmakers. In terms of technology, many film schools
give you the opportunity to get your hands on a lot of the equipment you’ll find on
sets – like jibs, dollies, cameras, or microphones – while an expert helps guide you. And you’ll learn to collaborate! Film is an intensely collaborative industry
and medium, and being forced to rely on and work with your peers is a big part of the
film school experience. Even more importantly, film school gives you
access to a community of people who are just as obsessed with films and filmmaking as you
are! That network of teachers, mentors, and trusted
peers will become your allies as you all develop your creative projects and find opportunities
to work in the film industry. Many film school graduates think of this community
as one of the biggest benefits of their formal education. And, of course, you’ll earn a degree. A degree can have value as a symbol of your
passion, commitment, and follow-through, but, sadly, it doesn’t guarantee you a job or
a career. And that leads us into some arguments against
attending film school. It’s expensive. Not only will you pay tuition, but you’ll
have to fund your own films. And don’t forget, you might have to move
to a bigger, pricier city to pursue your dreams. Not to mention, film is an exceptionally competitive
industry that often depends on who you know and how good you are at your job. There’s a lot of luck and timing mixed in
with the tenacity, hard work, and talent required to succeed. Also, your learning style might not be suited
to a classroom. Some people thrive in an academic environment,
while others do better with a hands-on approach or more unstructured exploration. If that’s you, film school might not be
the best option. But if you decide film school is too expensive
or not a good fit, there are a number of other paths you can take to become a professional
filmmaker. Many directors started out working as crew
members on other people’s films before making movies of their own. Alfred Hitchcock began as a title designer,
and worked his way up to directing classics like Psycho and Rear Window. Before dreaming up The Terminator, Aliens,
Titanic, and Avatar, James Cameron got his start as a set painter for famous B-movie
producer Roger Corman. Cameron reportedly mastered so many different
skills that, today, his crew members talk about upping their game because he can probably
do their job at least as well as they can. This kind of apprenticeship approach was even
built into the structure of some international film industries until fairly recently. Up until at least the 1980s in England, for
example, most directors were obligated to put in their time as an Assistant Director
before they were given the chance to make their own films. In the 1990s, though, A-list directors like
Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh took an entirely different path. Instead of apprenticing for other filmmakers,
they both studied hundreds if not thousands of films on their own, with a focus and intensity
most film students couldn’t muster. Their feature film debuts – Reservoir Dogs
and sex, lies, and videotape – both display an incredible grasp of storytelling, film
grammar, and tone, at a level remarkable for self-taught directors. Paul Thomas Anderson, acclaimed director of
Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood, split the difference. He was an intense student of film long before
he got to film school… and then dropped out after the first day! The proliferation of things like Blu-ray special
features and online tutorials make this kind of DIY approach more possible than ever before. “Lessons from the Screenplay” on YouTube
and the website and podcast ScriptNotes are great resources for screenwriters. While sites like can teach
you tips and tricks about cameras, lighting, and special effects. In fact, the falling cost of film equipment
and the ability to distribute your work on the Internet has done more to change the film
school equation in the last decade than anything else. You can build online communities and peer
groups of like-minded filmmakers from around the world, which might make film school less
necessary. And it’s not like Warner Brothers is gonna
turn you down for a directing job because they find out you don’t have a degree! Think about it this way. If you want to become a doctor, you need to
go to medical school, right? If you can afford it and your grades are good
enough, you’ll graduate and – boom – you’re a doctor. It doesn’t guarantee you a job, but it does
mean you’re very likely to find work in the medical field. It’s also the only way to become a doctor. For filmmakers, film school is just one
of many paths you might take. That’s the great advantage and drawback
to pursuing a career in film: you can get there any number of ways… but none of them
are guaranteed. So, is film school the right choice for you? I can’t tell you that. But luckily, the person who can tell you
is watching this video right now. …It’s you, I’m talking about you. Take some time and think about the environments
in which you learn best, the communities you could build and be a part of, and what you
can afford. And remember: whatever form your education
takes, it’s the work you do, and the kind of collaborator you become, that matter most. Today we talked about the history of film
school and the different approaches they take to educating filmmakers. We discussed the benefits of film school,
from access to equipment, peer groups, and mentors to the time to make mistakes. And we looked at other options, from apprenticeships
to self-education and building your own community of collaborators online. Next time, we’ll focus our attention on
the history and exciting current state of television production. Crash Course Film Production is produced in
association with PBS Digital Studios. You can head over to their channel to check
out a playlist of their latest shows, like Space Time, It’s Okay To Be Smart, and Physics
Girl. This episode of Crash Course was filmed in
the Doctor Cheryl C. Kinney Crash Course Studio with the help of these nice people and our
amazing graphics team is Thought Cafe.

About James Carlton

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100 thoughts on “To Film School or Not To Film School: Crash Course Film Production #14

  1. Take the money you would spend on a Film School. And use it to travel, make your own films and collaborate. You can find tons of tutorials on YouTube teaching you the basics of film making. You can figure out the rest by yourself and develop your own style!

  2. Woah! Thank you. For the longest time I've had a hard time deciding what college is best for me, and now I know. Thanks!

  3. I did a 3yr undergrad degree at my local university. But i found that the most valuable education I got was when I interned and worked as a receptionist for a year at a production company. There is nothing like hands-on learning

  4. Don't ever go to film school. Just spend the 4 years on internships and you'll be miles ahead of any student thats been attending the school for 4 years.

  5. Film school is extremely expensive but as a current film student I feel like I learned a lot from film school and it gave me the opportunity to work in every field to figure out what I like and what I don't like. In classes like "industry professionalism" I had to interview people in the industry and that helped me create a lot of connections in the field I want to pursue (editing) and on top of all that I created connection with my own peers and they will also soon be in the film industry.
    It is hard work and I barely get sleep, we have thousands of projects and workshops on top os 5-6 classes, but I know I made the right decision going to film school.

  6. Series idea
    A series where you explain to us recent high school graduates how to file taxes,
    Get a job, figure out what we want in life, find a job, manage bank accounts, avoid scams (beyond the obvious Nigerian prince), and find jobs!
    Even stuff like how to make easy repairs to the car or fix small stuff without paying a professional will be super helpful to us
    There are so many things that adults can do but no one has ever taught us high schoolers because adults take it for obvious and you can be sure that we won’t ask them
    Some schools have classes that are supposed to do that but not all schools do and the those that do have the classes are usually worthless beyond “don’t fall to peer pressure kids” or “you don’t have to smoke to be cool” and “sex can wait”
    While telling us that we should believe in ourselves is nice for your self confidence. It’s not very helpful when I have a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. And no cellular reception.
    ( I can have all the stuff I need to replace the tire, but I won’t manage to do it in a million years)
    Please give us a series that explains how to be an adult
    Thank you

  7. What I miss in film school was the easy access to equipment. The school I went to in Tel-Aviv didn't have any rules about when you can take equipment. In fact, we were encouraged to use them for our own side projects.

  8. I minored in film studies but had one class where the professor taught us about visual motifs to build a language for a film. Completely changed how I saw and understood film and filmmaking.

  9. I'm so poor I make it work for me I was homeless for 7 years learned to love it and learning is a big part of it I love to read now and I love this page I can't do school the money the effort I can't do that I can do it from home like hafe assidly I'm not that smart but books and YouTube help

  10. As someone who lives in Anchorage Alaska I was very confused when you said Anchorage has a film school. I’d probably be going to film school now if there was. Not sure where you got that information.

  11. I just say Kubrick, Nolan and Tarantino didn´t went to film school, either you have it or you don´t.

    Go to film school if you want to do a specific role in film but if you want to be a filmmaker with your own ideas DON´T!

  12. My sister, a director of photography, says the single most important factor of going to film school is networking and creating connections. According to her, every single job and gig she's ever participated in she got thanks to someone who vouched for her previous work, or just someone she knew. So my guess is that unless you're a top 1% persuader/salesperson/lobbyist, or have tons of contacts already, you'll be probably better off going to film school.

  13. I'm in Film School right now and my feelings on it are mixed. I have the luxury of living in California and being able to just head to LA whenever I want but I still decided to go to school for film. If I play my cards right in Spring in Summer I'll only have to pay $ 1000 back to my school which is great.

    Tbh, Evaluate your situation and what you exactly want to do with your career. I'd suggest Community College because 1) it's cheaper and 2) My old CC (Im at Uni now), taught me a lot more and I wish I didn't transfer….though I have a emphasis in Criticism and not Production as I planned beforehand

    If anyone has questions, I'd love to answer as best I can

  14. True, but because of its competitiveness, having a degree might help show the director(s) that you know what you're doing.

  15. issue with film school is that its rushed. truth be told…it can take a long time to write and produce something great. I got the experience first and am now considering film school for more theory.

  16. This was so very very helpful for me. I’ve been struggling to find direction especially out of a family who has never done anything like this.

  17. Yall honestly going to film school and dropping out is goat because it gives you a good story so i recommend that.

  18. if you want a more subjective discussion which i would say is a slightly better or at least more in depth, try the Lindsey Ellis video on this subject.

  19. Coming out of medical school. I want to do something related to film but right now have no experience or knowledge about it. The first thing I want to do is find other ppl interesting in film so I can at least start getting done exposure, how best to do it?

  20. i suggest to join if u can afford, we humans lose motivation and passion really quick and if you are that kind of person like most of the people get in and make friends with like minded people and keep making shorts.

  21. i'm a self-taught editor since my school doesn't focus much on video editing… i really want to study in a film school since fhis is the thing I love, is it gonna be worth it?

  22. thank you for making this video. I’m a freshman right now and I’ve always been interested in engineering but after I shadowed an electrical engineer and seeing everything they do everyday it just seems so boring and I’d never want to do that as my career. I want to do something creative and not some cookie cutter type job. I spent hours on hours editing and working on a documentary for this national history day competition and over that time I realized how much I actually love editing and doing gfx. I never really considered doing film because I always thought it was just this extremely exclusive field but after seeing this video explaining he structure of film school I think that’s really what I want to do.

  23. To me I think film school is not worth it…I took a break from film school to start working as a PA. So far I worked on two TV shows shot in New York City. My network in connecting with Key PA's have really payed off. I usually find out what TV/Movie productions are shooting in the NYC area. I usually take trips out to these film sets and ask crew members if the Key PA is around, so I can talk to them about getting work. If you live in either NY or LA I recommend using this method. It's really helpful.

  24. You should mention College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. If you want to know what we have done just look up the number of Student Emmy Award winners we have had in the last three years. We do what other film schools won’t!

  25. I’m surprised they didn’t even mention Steven Spielberg. He applied for USC film school and was rejected multiple times. Now look at him, he has a street named after him in USC and an honorary degree!

  26. Personally, I had a quite bad experience in film school that made me hate the field. It doesn't mean it will happen to you, but think a lot before deciding to take that path. I do not regret a bit, I have learned so much, but right now, not sure I am going to work in this industry.

  27. So you're really not gonna name Steven Spielberg, the greatest director of all time as an example of a director who did not go to film school.

  28. 1:48 is it just me or do they all look really mean? 😀 they white highlight in the eyes makes it certainly appear so, intended or not…

  29. I'm from Philippines and I do really love making film but the problem is there's no film school here.

  30. The biggest benefit to going to a film school besides all the knowledge you gain in the subject is actually the people meet, the friends you make, and the connections you build. When your studying in a school where "literally" everyone is passionate about film and is there to learn how to make films, the possibility of gaining experience by making films with friends and like minded people is incredible. Plus you never know that friend you make in college could one day become the next big Director, Actor, or Producer or Writer. And you will be happy you know and are friends with that person.

  31. I think choosing a specific track would be more effective in guaranteeing you work, since your skills will be valuable and rare

  32. Can anybody list a few resources online to look up to for cinematography, any websites, courses, education platforms and other creative places. Also community forums & collaboration places for filmmakers!! Thanks.

  33. I want to become a movie director so bad. Unfortunately I live in Guatemala film does not fly here
    I am currently fighting to get a visa to go to USA

  34. I love to get a job in film, but im not sure how to go about getting into the industry. Does anyone have any tips or advice that can help me out?

  35. For those who says "a single sheet of paper doesn't decides my future" you can't be doctor/nurse/professor without those papers😂😂😂😂😂…..
    The rich don't teach u how to be rich , they just share there experience .
    Well good luck to everyone who wants to go film school.
    Just trust youself thats all we need .

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