The op-ed of all showbiz op-eds. We here at TVWriter™ consider this a “must-read”:
by Caleb Ward
Whether it’s terminology, new techniques, or simply how to not do something, every time I step onto a film set I learn something new. Your entire career is going to be spent learning and refining your skills… at no point are you going to sit down and know everything. The industry moves way too fast and it’s simply impossible to know everything.
When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, ‘no, I went to films.’ – Quentin Tarantino
As a filmmaker you’ve already committed yourself to lifelong learning, and that’s a good thing, but where should you take your first step? Many start their film journey at a college… but is that the best option? I think not. Here are a few reasons why you might want to skip film school from my own personal experience:
Film school is absurdly expensive. For example, if you went to USC (arguably the world’s best film school), it would cost you $42,000 a year. That’s $162,000 after a four year degree, not counting any other costs. Now contrast that with $28,935, the average yearly salary of a Production Assistant which, in all likelihood, will be your first job out of college if you are wanting to jump into the industry. In short, if you go to film school, you will be in so much crippling debt that you will have an extremely hard time paying it off.
Think of what you could shoot for $168,000 or the equipment you could buy. With that kind of money you could start a production company, build an amazing editing station, hire actors, and invest enough money to have $2,000,000 in retirement by age 65.
I know that film school is an investment, and like any investment it will require upfront costs… but is film school reallyan investment? Is there a correlation between film school and success in the industry? The short answer is no, but more on this below.
It’s hard for a college or university to stay up-to-date on anything. It makes sense… departments have to deal with politics, budgets, and education plans that hinder their ability to be flexible. So when a new camera is released that has the potential to radically change the industry, you probably won’t be using it in film school. Instead you’ll probably be using cameras that are incredibly old. At the very least, you’ll have very few opportunities to use new cameras as they are often reserved for upper-level courses. So, in reality, for the first two and a half years of basics, you’ll be taking a combination of math, science, and english classes that have very little practical application in anything, let alonefilmmaking.
Films really are about living life, and that part doesn’t happen inside a film school. – Ana Lily Amirpour
I literally had a class where we had to shoot on DV tapes. Not because they were trying to teach us that a good filmmaker can shoot a film on any camera… no, the reason we shot on DV cameras was because they were the only cameras available for us to use. I don’t blame the film school. I get it, camera equipment gets expensive fast. But you’re better off going out and buying your own equipment if you actually want to shoot a film that you can be proud of.
As an aspiring filmmaker, one of the most kind-hearted and helpful things anyone can do for you is be brutally honest about every mistake you make. Being forced to hand out overly kind, kid-glove critique (while receiving the same) to fellow aspiring filmmakers is of no help to anyone, especially when the project clearly doesn’t merit a positive response. Unlike reality, film school tries to say nice things about everyone’s work… but when a film is bad, it needs to be labeled as such. Anything else is a fluffy lie….