In This Article
It’s a big decision, deciding which film school to go to. Here we’ll give you an overview of five of the country’s top film schools. To simplify your search, we’ll also hook you up with a handy cheat sheet of key things to look out for in the schools that have captured your interest.
What is the most prestigious film school in Canada?
Reputation matters, but choosing the right school also depends on what exactly you’re looking for in a film school.
Let’s look at what five Canadian film schools do well. For the purposes of this article, we will be concentrating on their film programs—although all schools listed here do offer other creative programs.
Full disclosure—I work for Toronto Film School but am in no way involved in the day-to-day running of the programs.
Toronto Film School (TFS)
TFS’s 18-month Film Production Diploma Program teaches aspiring filmmakers how to shoot their films on the same industry-grade equipment used to make Hollywood films. At the school’s downtown studio campus students will also learn how to write, prep, produce, budget and edit their own productions while gaining an understanding of the business side of the industry too. The program concludes with a capstone project that mimics the dynamics of an actual production.
At TFS, all students automatically become members in the school’s Inner Circle Club, an exclusive initiative where an industry ace leads a variety of student-centric events that allow students to network while learning the latest techniques and strategies.
Students graduate with a professional demo reel, prepared to take on a wide variety of industry roles.
TFS offers a 24-month Video Production Diploma Program as an online option.
Vancouver Film School (VFS)
VFS’s 12-month Film Production Diploma Program provides students with hands-on training on the latest industry gear. Students will have access to studio and production space in downtown Vancouver to make their films—including access to a performance capture studio.
Students are given the opportunity to specialize in two of five creative streams: directing, cinematography, producing, production design, or post production. Instructors bring with them experience in a variety of specialties—and like Toronto Film School—VFS film students finish their program by producing a final capstone project.
Students graduate with a professional demo reel and access to the VFS Alumni Directory and job board.
Trebas has two campuses. It offers a 12-month (45 weeks) Film & Television Program in Montreal and a 12-month (48 weeks) Film & Television and Post-Production Diploma Program in Toronto.
Montreal’s program (which is offered in English or French) provides courses in script writing, camera, lighting, cinematography, editing, and more. Toronto’s program (which is a longer, diploma-granting program) focuses more time on script writing and theory, and as part of the curriculum provides labs in casting, production, editing, and audio.
Trebas offers lifetime career support.
As of this writing, CourseCompare has given Trebas a 4.85 rating based on external reviews.
Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU)
TMU (formerly known as Ryerson University) is located in downtown Toronto. Its RTA School of Media offers a four-year Media Production Degree Program (BA). Students will learn digital media production, writing, camera operation, audio production, and more.
The program provides networking opportunities and an internship program in its fourth year.
TMU offers students the option to undertake concentrations. Concentrations are an in-depth study of a particular field of interest, at TMU they include: critical media theory, digital media, media business, radio & sound, screenwriting, social media, television & video, and video game design.
As of this writing, CourseCompare does not have enough reviews to give TMU a ratings average.
York’s Cinema and Media Arts Department is located at its Keele Campus in the northern end of Toronto. It’s four-year Production Degree Program (BFA) provides field trips and internships. Students will have access to modern facilities (including Cinespace Film Studios) as they learn how to write, direct, shoot and edit their work—with the option to specialize.
Specialization options include: directing, cinematography, editing, sound, production management and production design.
The program also provides opportunities to collaborate with students from other creative programs as well as participate in master classes with visiting artists and scholars.
As of this writing, CourseCompare does not have enough reviews to give York a ratings average.
How big are Toronto and Vancouver’s film industries?
The screen industry is massive in Toronto and Vancouver. Although Montreal, Calgary and Halifax have seen their share of TV and film productions, it’s not nearly at the level of these two cities.
Ontario—home to Toronto Film School, Trebas Institute, Toronto Metropolitan University, and York University—is the fourth largest film and television production centre in North America. Two new studios are under development here, one is a $250 million dollar development on Toronto’s waterfront, the other is just north of the city and spearheaded by actor Ryan Reynolds.
Toronto is Canada’s most populous city, with an extensive bus, train and subway transit system. It is home to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and is considered to be the one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities.
British Columba—home to Vancouver Film School—is the third largest production centre for film and television in North America. Studios operating there include North Shore Studios and Vancouver Film Studios, currently among the two largest special effects stages in Canada. Vancouver has an extensive bus, train, Skytrain and SeaBus transit system, with the SeaBus passenger ferry connecting downtown Vancouver to North Vancouver.
Both Toronto and Vancouver have been referred to as “Hollywood North”.
Searching for a film school—our cheat sheet
We’ve broken down what to look for in this handy reference. When researching film schools, consider:
- Quality of Faculty—Are the teachers retired and into their second careers as teachers? Or are they active, working faculty?
- Facilities and Equipment—Will the school provide you with modern equipment and studios to shoot your films? If possible, take a tour before making your decision.
- Connections to Industry—Does the school provide opportunities to engage with industry professionals?
- Length of Program—Consult the curriculum. Will you have time for the classes and homework required to graduate?
- “The Business”—Look for a school that provides you with a solid understanding of the business side of the industry too.
- Career Services—Does the school offer a Career Services Centre? Will you be able to access these services after you graduate?
- School’s Location—Can you commute, and if so, what is the round-trip time? If you live in the same city as the school, try a trip during rush hour to see how long it takes to get to class.
- Online Study Options—Does the school offer similar programs online?
- Cost—Do the tuition costs fit your budget?
- Online Reviews—What are students and graduates saying of the school?
Final Thoughts on finding the right film school for you
Narrow it down to a final two or three schools, and then pay each one a visit. This will give you an idea of the school’s culture, safety, resources available, and more. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can sit in on a class. Check out the common areas. Talk to the students there and see what they think. In this way, you can get a good glimpse into what a day in the life would be like for you at this school.