Who Needs Film School?

Reader Sarah asks:

I recently graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature, but am very interested in becoming involved with film production. Problem is: I live in Wisconsin. But am very close to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Not exactly the hub of film production.

Anyway. The question is: where to start? Obviously, moving to L.A. seems the best bet, but I wonder if pursuing a Masters in Film would be ideal beforehand.

With the economy the way it is, I really don’t know what the safest path is.

Well, the first thing you need to know is, there is no safe path in Hollywood, no matter how good or bad the larger economy is.

They say we’re “recession proof,” but that just means we’re just as prone to random fluctuations of joblessness/homelessness/considering-getting-into-porn as we always are.

That being said, my definitive answer to the question of film school is… it depends.

The thing to remember about film school is that it’s not the same as med school. In the operating room, you wouldn’t want some uneducated goof winging it and hoping for the best; in a movie, it can be considered high art.

Seriously, have you ever actually seen a director do this?

Film school does not guarantee you a job. Nor does being a high drop out altogether hinder your job prospects. Just ask a grip. Zing!


You could move out here tomorrow (well, not tomorrow), and find some sort of job, if you know how to look.

So, if film school is unnecessary, why would anyone want to spend thousands of dollars for a sheet of sheepskin?

Read tomorrow to find out…

(That’s what we call call a “tease,” in the blogging business.)

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11 Responses

  1. Great post! Going to film school makes sense for some people, especially if you are serious about making it as a professional. But you are right, no safe path and no guaranteed jobs…but what industry can promise you that! 🙂 Check our school out – New York Film Academy.

  2. Going to school will not teach you how to get a job. Especially not a masters program. Film has its mechanical and chemical fundamentals and after you learn that then it’s all up to you, with an environment, people, and instructors to help guide you make movies (repeatedly even, not something easily achieved in the real world) in a safe sanctuary where there’s no detriment to failure than a bad grade. I flourished when attending film school because that is how I learn best, and I made so many great mistakes I have to thank film school for allowing me to make. If you’re strapped on cash, and have one hell of a drive, personality, and grounding in reality, you may still be able to jump into movies without a film degree.

  3. Hi Sarah,

    I think your best bet would be to enroll in an educational program offering certificates in film studies. This will allow you to “test the waters” to see if you like filmmaking, without completely draining your wallet. After completing a certificate program you will have a great foundation and technical know-how that can get the ball rolling on your film career.


  4. Same question also applies to folks who want to go to school for photography. I would say it depends on how you learn. If you learn better by doing, I say work as a photo assistant for a while. If you learn better in a class-type situation – then go to school.

    But no one has ever asked to see my diploma….

  5. Nathan’s right. I worked everywhere but LA or New York for 15 years before moving to LA . Now that a lot of the work that used to go to Canada is staying in the US with the proliferation of state tax incentives, some of the biggest production cities are places like Michigan and New Mexico and Atlanta. I guarantee you there is also a lively commercial market in Minneapolis.

  6. A Tease? You’ve got to be kidding.


    P.S. to Sarah. 1. I always tell newbies to take film school off their resumes as soon as they’ve got enough paying credits to have more than an empty page. Some people actually hold it against you. 2. Do an internet search for Chapman and Fisher dollies to find out who the authorized dealers are in Minneapolis. That will be the folks involved in actual professional work. They should, in turn, be able to point you toward the local production companies. (I assure you there’s plenty of production in MN.)

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