The allure of the silver screen has captivated many, drawing aspiring filmmakers to pursue their dreams of directing blockbusters or crafting poignant indie films. Yet, as with many artistic careers, the path to success is not clearly defined, leading many to ponder: is film school worth it? 

This question is particularly pressing in an era where tuition fees are skyrocketing, and the internet offers a plethora of free learning resources. Let’s look into the various facets of this debate to provide a clearer picture for those standing at this crossroads.

Watch: Is Film School Worth It?

Subscribe for more filmmaking videos like this.

Is a Film Degree Worth It And Why?

First, let’s define film school

Before we further explore the pros and cons, as well as tangible outcomes of attending film school, it's crucial to understand exactly what film school entails and the various forms it takes. 


What is film school?

At its core, film school is an educational institution dedicated to the art and craft of filmmaking. These programs typically cover a broad spectrum of topics, including technical skills like cinematography and editing, theoretical knowledge about film history and storytelling, and practical experience through student-led projects. The goal is to produce well-rounded filmmakers who understand both the creative and logistical aspects of making a movie.

Is Film School Worth It In The End?

The investment in film school

Obviously, film school comes at a cost. Whether it's a traditional four-year university or a specialized film academy, the tuition fees can range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. This investment is not just monetary; it also requires an immense amount of time and effort.

How Much is Film School?

The cost of film school can vary widely, from relatively affordable public institutions to prestigious private schools that can set students back several tens of thousands of dollars per year.

This financial investment is one of the primary considerations for prospective students and the tuition costs grows year to year.

Tuition can range from the lower end of $20,000 per year for a public university to well over $100,000 per year for top-tier private schools. This does not include additional costs such as housing, equipment, and materials. For students pursuing a graduate degree in film or attending a private institution, the cost can easily double or triple.

How Long is Film School?

Program lengths also vary, ranging from short-term certificate programs specializing in specific skills to comprehensive four-year bachelor's degrees and even longer for those pursuing master's degrees. 

For those passionate about filmmaking and willing to navigate the challenges of the industry, a film major can be incredibly rewarding. It offers a structured environment to learn, experiment, and create. The choice often depends on the depth of education and specialization the student desires. 

Is Film a Good Major?

The benefits of film school

Though the financial and time commitment in film school can be significant, it offers numerous benefits, fostering a deeper understanding of the film industry and providing invaluable hands-on experience, relationships, and opportunities.

Hands-On Learning and Networking Opportunities

One of the most significant advantages of film school is the hands-on experience it provides.

Students have access to state-of-the-art camera equipment that would otherwise cost a lot of money to rent, mentorship from experienced professors, and opportunities to collaborate with like-minded peers.

This exposure can be invaluable in developing technical skills as well as building a network within the industry.

Ryan Coogler on Film School: "What You Don't Know, You're Afraid Of" 

Structured Curriculum and Feedback

Film school offers a structured curriculum that covers all aspects of filmmaking, from pre-production to post-production. This comprehensive education can provide a solid foundation for students looking to enter the film industry.

Additionally, having experienced professionals critique and provide feedback on student projects can help sharpen their skills and prepare them for the real world.

Industry Connections and Opportunities

Many film schools have connections to the industry, allowing students to gain internships or job opportunities while still in school. These connections can provide a foot in the door for students looking to break into the competitive world of filmmaking.

Alternatives to a Degree in Filmmaking

The alternatives to film school

While film school offers many benefits, it is not the only path to becoming a successful filmmaker. With the rise of online learning and self-teaching resources, there are alternative options for those who may not have the means to attend film school.

Self-learning and Online Resources

The internet has made it possible to access a wealth of information on filmmaking at little or no cost. From video tutorials and workshops to online courses and forums, aspiring filmmakers can learn the technical skills and theory needed to make movies without the hefty price tag of film school.

For example, we did a video on the different types of camera movement. While watching our video will give you a head start on this topic. On the other hand, unless you get a camera in your hands to try these movements out, the educational quality is limited.

Every Camera Movement Technique Explained  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Degree vs. Experience

Many successful filmmakers have bypassed traditional education routes, opting instead for hands-on experience on film sets or self-directed learning through online resources. This has led some to question whether the structured environment of film school stifles creativity.

Richard Linklater on being a self-taught filmmaker

Independent Filmmaking and Networking

Another alternative is to gain hands-on experience through independent filmmaking and networking. This can involve creating your own short films, working on student or low-budget projects, and attending film festivals or industry events to build connections.

What Can You Do With a Film Degree?

So, is film school worth it? 

Is film school worth it? The answer is complex, deeply personal, and highly subjective. The film industry is replete with stories of successful directors and auteur filmmakers who never attended film school, such as Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan. 

Quentin Tarantino Dropped Out of School in 9th Grade 

These examples often fuel arguments against the necessity of a formal film education. However, prominent filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, and Katheryn Bigelow all attended film school.

Spike Lee's Advice To Film School Graduates

Ultimately, the decision to attend film school should be based on personal circumstances, including financial situation, learning style, and career aspirations. 

While film school offers undeniable benefits, success in the film industry is by no means guaranteed by a diploma. Aspiring filmmakers must weigh their passion against practical considerations and decide the path that best suits their vision and goals. 

When it comes down to it, aspiring filmmakers can carve out success in the ever-changing cinema landscape by dedicating themselves, putting in hard work, and nurturing a love for storytelling. There are various paths to explore in this dynamic industry.  

Up Next

A Guide to the Best Film Schools

After looking into the benefits of film education and alternatives, let's focus on finding the right place to learn. Our upcoming article will showcase top institutions worldwide, highlighting what sets them apart in film studies.

Up Next: Best Film Schools →
Solution Icon - Shot List and Storyboard

Showcase your vision with elegant shot lists and storyboards.

Create robust and customizable shot lists. Upload images to make storyboards and slideshows.

Learn More ➜

  • Kyle DeGuzman graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Television, Film, & New Media. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado spending his time writing, filmmaking, and traveling.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copy link