Monday, July 12, 2010

The Case for Film School

The age-old question for the aspiring filmmaker is this:

Do I go to film school? Or do I just move out to L.A.?

I've asked this question at various Hollywood parties and on top insider blogs like Hollywood University, John August, and The Anonymous Production Assistant's Blog.

And the consensus is always the same: film school is a big waste of time and money.

Most point out the lack of recent successful film school grads: where's today's George Lucas? Today's Martin Scorsese? Hell, Steven Spielberg didn't even go to film school.

So when you finish film school, you're 3-4 years older, thousands of dollars in debt, and still unemployed because that job you interviewed for went to some Hollywood hotshot's nephew.

And when you go to industry panels, Hollywood's top directors, producers and executives say they never went to film school and neither should you.

"Just go out there, write some good material, meet some good people, and if you listen and learn, you can do anything you want in this town."


Wrong. They are all wrong.

If you want to break into this business TODAY, film school is your best chance.

Case in point:

I've been working for an emerging director at his boutique production company and we had a film shoot the other night.

To prepare for the shoot I had to do everything. And I mean everything:
  • I supervised and taped the casting sessions.
  • I organized and edited the casting tapes.
  • I scouted and locked filming locations.
  • I drafted contracts for actors, background, and location owners.
  • I found and hired essential crew members.
  • I made the call sheet, shooting schedule, and budget.
And while on set, I ran the shoot as the 1st A.D., I managed the actors and crew members like a producer, and I was even the 2nd Unit Cinematographer.

At the end of the night, my boss told me that it was one of the easiest shoots of his life.

To break into Hollywood, you need a broad range of filmmaking skills and experience that only film school can give you.

Maybe 10-20 years ago you could break in with just hard work, connections, and good taste. But in today's market, assistants are expected to get their hands dirty and do just about everything under the sun to get the job done, day after day.

Sure, my boss could've hired some hotshot's nephew instead of me -- but that nephew wouldn't have lasted if he didn't know editing, casting, producing, shooting, etc. inside and out.

Sure, you can make it in Hollywood without going to film school.

But here's the kicker: my boss not only appreciates my work, he's seen my short film Another Life, and he's recommending me as a director to anyone asking around.

Try doing all of that without film school.


  1. I totally agree. I spent a lot of time and money at LA Film School, but what I gained from it has proven invaluable in my career so far.

    I've done the prep work on shoots like the one you described, and all the "hard work" in the world can't begin to compensate if you don't know what the hell you're doing. And the only way to learn is hands-on, preferably from people who work in the business. There's just no substitute.

  2. Film School can be useful for someone, and totally unnecessary for another one.

    It's only a matter of choice. And it's all depends on your own character.

    Anyway, I think, if you wanna to shoot your film, than go grab your camera and start shooting...