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Do I Need Film School?

“Do I Need Film School?” This is by far one of the most-asked questions I receive. It is hardly an easy one to answer. So I want to take a few moments to explain why it’s never a simple yes or no. First thing that you would need to do is decide what area of this industry would you like to really be a part of. There’s directing, producing, assisting, and other very general areas. The more specific jobs would be operating a particular piece of equipment like jibs, cameras, steadicams, which are more freelance-based jobs. Then there’s also animation, motion graphics, and visual effects, but for those specific fields of work you might want to look for an agency that specializes in offering that sort of work to their clients, or you can freelance with that trade also. However, I have found that it’s much harder to freelance when your area of expertise is specialized as those kinds of clients are harder to come by. For the kind of work that I do, which is still pretty general at this point, I’ve decided to take the freelance route. Many of these agencies require some sort of film school background to even consider you. Others want to see if your work is good enough. I have yet to be asked for some sort of background in film school. This is because my clients are never production agencies. If they are, you're contacting me to be involved in one particular project, not for full-time employment. So therefore in my case, my resume would simply be my demo reel. So do YOU need film school?

 

Film School

On one hand, attending a Film School can be of great benefit because you’re already learning all the basics that is need to become a filmmaker. Not to say that you can learn absolutely everything in film school, but you’ll definitely have a big head start. No need to search around for video tutorials trying to find the information and hoping that the information being provided is accurate. A professor would go in-depth and teach you, not only the shots needed for a certain scene, but the history behind those shots, who discovered them, and how it has evolved throughout the years. That is something that would be difficult to find otherwise. And yes, I believe that history of this industry is important to know to better understand where this industry is heading. Networking is also a great benefit of attending film school. By the time you graduate, you will already know and be in communication with other filmmakers. I wish I had that starting off. Then there are program-specific classes such as animation, producing, etc., for those of you looking for that specific field in your career.

 

No Film School

I’ve said it before, I never attended a film school. I never sat in a classroom where a professor taught me all the basics of filmmaking. Everything that I know about this industry is more or less 30% internet and 70% hands-on experience. Whether it’s with my own personal practices, or on set working with experienced professionals. I tend to ask a lot of questions when I work with veterans in my field. Perhaps it's a good thing that I didn’t attend film school. Too many people get too caught up in the “rules” of filmmaking that they lose sight of what it’s all about. For example, the 180 degree rule is a very good and appropriate rule that makes a lot of sense just about all the time. However, I have found myself with a couple of instances where I purposely broke the rule because my shot called for it. My friends and/or clients loved how that particular scene or shot unfolded despite the broken rule. There are many other instances just like that in which this can apply. Here’s a side-note, I learned the 180 degree rule right out of YouTube. This, just like 80% of everything else that I know, I've learned the same way. I’ll never use “no film school”  as an excuse for not finding answers to my own questions. I’ve made many friends in filmmaking throughout the years, most of which did attend film school. They all say the same thing, they learned more on YouTube then they ever did in film school. This is not to say you should not attend film school, it’s just not absolutely needed to pursue a career in this field. Again, going back to what I said earlier, depends on the career path you choose in this industry.

 

Final Thoughts

I think film school would’ve been a great tool for me to have back when I was in college. If I could do it over again, I would definitely have that as my major. So therefore if you have the means to attend a film school and you already know that this is the industry you see yourself in for your career, I would absolutely recommend anyone to go for it. But if you don't have the means and you’re in some sort of mindset that is telling you that you cannot move forward without film school, I suggest you get rid of that mindset RIGHT NOW and do your homework! It is not impossible and you can definitely make it happen. If you love it, you will find a way. Our generation has basically had everything handed to us. Ridiculously cheap video equipment, and an endless supply of knowledge all online for free. The rest is up to you.

 

I hope this article helped you. God bless!