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What is Film School?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Film school is an educational establishment that focuses on teaching movie making. Film schools are either independent or part of a university. A film school typically offers courses or programs in producing, directing, acting and screenwriting as well as camera and filming technologies.

Although attending film school may not be mandatory for people who want to work in the movie and television industry, it can provide an opportunity to learn about all the components that fit together to make a production. Film schools introduce skills that interested students may choose to pursue further. A school of film often encourages students to work on small feature film projects they can use on their resumes. While graduating from a film and television school is no guarantee of a job in those areas, the education and film projects students gain can be used on a resume to help further their chances of being selected for entry-level work in TV or movies.

Film school curriculum is typically based around core knowledge in all areas of movie making, plus elective and specialty course offerings. In some film schools, after completion of core curriculum, students may choose to specialize in either theater or television and film specialty areas. Some schools of film focus on one specialty area, such as animation design or visual effects, while others concentrate mainly on acting and directing. Prospective students should look for schools that have programs in the aspects of filmmaking that they’re most interested in.

Film schools are located all over the world including Germany, Israel and Australia. Top film schools are especially associated with the United States and these include film school centers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and Florida State University (FSU). The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television offers courses in the history and theory of film as well as in the technical and creative areas of filmmaking.

UCLA is known for its bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. programs in theater as well as in film and television. A master's of fine arts degree from UCLA or another school for film may help people interested in becoming teachers teach filmmaking. Teaching filmmaking may be a rewarding future career option for aspiring filmmakers. FSU is known for matching film students with career mentors to help graduates try to find film industry jobs within one year after graduating.

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Discussion Comments
By hamje32 — On Oct 24, 2011

@nony - I know a guy who went to film school and specialized in animation. His stuff was so good that after graduation, he got picked up by one of the big animation studios in Hollywood.

That doesn’t happen to everyone of course. This guy had raw talent. I think talent and education are the winning combination in this business.

By Mammmood — On Oct 23, 2011

@nony - I strongly believe that young people should be encouraged to learn movie making. The community college in our area offers what’s called a summer film school, which is basically a two week boot camp for young people to learn video shooting, lighting, acting and editing.

At the end of the two week camp these young people produce their own movies. I think that’s an exciting way to put the love of movie making inside of young people, especially nowadays when just about anyone can shoot a movie with little more than a smartphone.

My son owns one of those portable handheld camcorders that we got him for under $100 and he’s been shooting his own movies with his friend and uploading them to the video sharing sites.

By nony — On Oct 22, 2011

@Charred - I agree. However, there is one advantage that I think you would have if you went to film school. You would be watching movies full time, beginning from the dawn of the movie age with silent films all the way up to the current era with 3D films.

You would learn a lot that you couldn’t pick up on your own, and more importantly, you'd study those films with an eye for technique. You’d learn about certain styles like “film noir” and how the different colors and palettes and lighting would affect a scene.

Good film schools would equip you with expert knowledge so that even your most basic home movie would suddenly look a lot more professional.

By Charred — On Oct 21, 2011

@ZsaZsa56 - I totally agree. I think that film school is very important, and if you can go that route you should, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

I remember years ago watching the movie “El Mariachi” produced by independent film director Robert Rodriguez. It was a very good film that he originally made for the Mexican market but it was picked up in the United States by a distributor here.

Anyway, I read his biography and he started out shooting home videos and editing his movies on his VCR (back in those days). One of his movies got him admitted into a film school, but he later wrote that everything you need to know about film school could be taught in about fifteen minutes.

The key, however, was to keep making movies, and use what you have in terms of actors and resources.

By lonelygod — On Oct 21, 2011

@animegal - While going to a top 10 film school like USC, NYU, UCLA or Columbia University is great, if you can't afford it I would say just focus on lots of involvement with your local cable networks and getting into a quality college that can teach you the skills that you need.

My friend went to a community college and studied to be a film editor, and he now works on some of the biggest projects in Hollywood. If you are going after the technical aspects of film making you just need a really good resume and skill set to get your first real job.

I say look at film school reviews in your area and see which classes suit you. You can always transfer to one of the big name schools later if you have the cash.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Oct 21, 2011

Film school is great and there are a lot of great producers and technicians that have come out of them. But I think there is also an argument to be made for skipping film school and just going out and making movies.

These days most of the equipment you need is cheap enough and quality enough that even amateurs can make good looking movies. And experience is the best teacher. I have met people from film school that had lots of great ideas and knew lots of theory and history, but couldn't do a thing once they actually picked up a camera. And when you are trying to find paying jobs, having a film reel counts for a lot more than a diploma.

So I don't want to discourage anyone, but know that film school is not your only choice. You can get started right now!

By animegal — On Oct 21, 2011

I am a huge movie lover and have been thinking about going to film production school to learn the ins and outs of things like camera work. I can't say I am interested in acting, but I really love the idea of working with professional grade cameras and possibly doing some editing.

A few years back I was lucky enough to be an extra on a TV show and I had a lot of fun chatting with the crew and they were really keen on showing me how things worked. It is really amazing how specialized some jobs in film are.

Does anyone know what the best film schools are?

I would love to get into one of the top 10 film schools and get trained really well.

By anon48545 — On Oct 13, 2009

This is a great article. I wish it showed more about colleges that actually offer these courses!

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