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Should I Go to Film School? The Pros & Cons

 

Let’s get real. It’s no coincidence that you’ve landed on this blog post. It’s safe to assume that you’re passionate about storytelling, you’re brimming with creative ideas, and you’re now wondering if a career in the film industry might be your calling. 

It’s also likely that you’re wrestling with one critical question: should I go to film school? 

Don’t worry. This question confronts every aspiring filmmaker at one point or another. 

And that’s because it’s an important one. 

On the one hand, film school demands considerable time and financial investment, and in 2023 it has to compete with the abundance of free resources offered online. 

On the other hand, it offers the most comprehensive education in the field and is widely praised for opening doors and kickstarting careers.

In an effort to ease your indecisiveness, we’ve outlined a case for and against going to film in school in 2023. Don’t worry it’s only a lil’ biased 😉Let’s dive in!

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The Case for Going to Film School

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Mentorship from the Pros

Film school offers the opportunity to learn from seasoned industry professionals. These mentors – who often possess years of hands-on experience in the film and television industry – offer a wealth of knowledge and insights. They’ve navigated the path you’re embarking on, faced similar challenges, and found ways to overcome them. The value of their guidance early on in your career can not be overstated.

In addition, accessing such pros outside of film school can be challenging. Starting as a PA, it could take years before you’ll find yourself working directly with key stakeholders such as producers, directors, and actors. Yet, this one-on-one experience is readily accessible through the mentorship-style learning offered at the right film school. 

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Hands-On Experience

Film school is not just about theory. In fact, good film schools prioritize practical learning because they are in tune with the demands of the industry. 

At film school, you’ll get to work on numerous short films, commercials, music videos and other projects in an environment that simulates the collaborative processes found on set. 

What’s more, you’ll learn the ins and outs of pre-production, production, and post-production. This means you’ll get to try out different roles such as directing, cinematography, camera operating, producing, and editing.
At Toronto Film School, students are immersed in projects, labs, and workshops where they can apply theory firsthand while trying out various production roles. What’s more, every student is required to participate in an industry-simulating short film project – an experience that closely replicates the process of producing your own film post-graduation.

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Networking Opportunities

In the world of film and television, your success is inextricably tied to the size and quality of your professional network. 

And guess what? Film schools serve as fertile ground for fostering this network as they give you a chance to build key relationships early in your career. 
At film school, you’ll meet like-minded people, develop lifelong connections, and form creative partnerships that could lead to job opportunities in the future. 

Here at TFS, we understand the importance networking plays when pursuing a career in the creative sector. That’s why our programs are jam-packed with career-oriented events and collaborative opportunities. 

As a student, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Toronto Film School’s Inner Circle Club (ICC) – a flagship initiative that comprises masterclasses, workshops, and “In Conversation” events featuring special industry guests that rotate every quarter. 

Through these initiatives, our students are constantly engaged with the industry; and what’s important is that they are engaged while they are learning. The practices, processes, and expectations of the industry aren’t just taught – they’re interwoven into their education. As a result, our students graduate confident, connected, and 100% set-ready. 

@torontofilmschool

When film is life. Literally. 🎥😄 For @connor_raketti it all started with making home videos as a kid.

♬ original sound – torontofilmschool

The Case Against Film School

Now that we’ve touched on some of the benefits of attending film school, let’s address a few arguments from the opposing camp. Here are the three most commonly cited cons of attending film school in 2023, along with a quick rebuttal for each. We are a film school after all, remember? 😉

High Costs

A common argument for not going to film school is the cost. Tuition fees can be steep, and if you’ve uprooted to move near campus, the cost of living can be weighty. 

This is particularly true for the legacy film schools in the United States. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

• A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy will set you back $130,491 (with equipment fees) in 2023. Meanwhile, the school’s two-year Filmmaking Certificate program costs $104,460.

• Similarly, a program at the American Film Institute – another highly lauded film school in the States – costs approximately $65,000 per year. 

Note* prices are in USD

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Rebuttal: DIY is often just as costly 

While these are certainly pricy programs, it is still important to consider the value you’re getting for your money. You’re paying for education, but you’re also paying for experience, professional connections, and access to resources and equipment that you might not otherwise have. 

Plus, independent filmmaking isn’t exactly a cheap alternative. Yes, producing a short film can cost anywhere from $500 to $500,000. 

But if you’re looking to produce a high-quality 20-40 minute short with a small crew, multiple actors, and cinema-quality equipment, you can expect to spend $10,000 at a minimum. 

But don’t just take it from us. Here are a few estimates for independently producing a short film as provided by various sources:

• Chicago-based filmmaker Lance Adams has over 20 shorts to his credit. In a 2017 blog post, he stated that creating these shorts typically costs around $500 to $1,000 per minute of completed film.

Newbie Film School estimates that an average short film costs between $700 to $1,500 per minute. However, they point out that if the story requires a bigger production, the budget can shoot up to $25,000 per minute.

The Film Fund Blog provides a useful chart that outlines the average estimated cost of a short film per minute. They argue it ranges from $700 to $1,500.

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Time Commitment

Film school can be a major time commitment. Most film schools require several years of full-time study to complete. For example, if you want a Bachelor’s degree in filmmaking, you can expect to be in school for at least three to four years.
This can be a serious challenge for those with already-existing responsibilities, such as a full-time job. It can also be a major deterrent for someone who is eager to dive right into their career and start learning in the real world. 

Let’s take a look at the length of some popular film school programs:

• A BS in Film Production from LA Film School takes 2.5 years to complete

• A BFA in Filmmaking from the New York Film Academy takes approximately 3 years to complete

• A BA in Content, Media, and Film Production from Met Film School takes 3 years to complete

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Rebbutal: Not all film school programs are a time sink

It’s worth mentioning that not all film school programs require this level of time commitment. This is especially true for non-BA programs. For example, at Toronto Film School, we offer an industry-focused Film Production diploma program that can be completed in a crisp 18-month period.

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No Guarantee of Success

One of the most common criticisms of film school is that it won’t guarantee you success in the industry. This is an undeniable truth: going to film school does not mean you’ll automatically land your dream job in the director’s chair or rise to stardom as Hollywood’s next big actor. In fact, there is a long list of A-list producers, directors, and actors who never passed through the doors of a film school. This list includes the likes of:

• Timothée Chalamet

• Quentin Tarantino

• Christopher Nolan

• Zendaya

• Steven Soderbergh

• Robert Rodriguez

• Harrison Ford

@moviesaretherapy

Great movie directors that never went to film school fyp foryou movies

♬ original sound – Kit Lazer

Rebbutal: Film school rewards those who work hard

Here’s the problem. Many students sign up for film school assuming that their time spent at these institutions will result in immediate employment post-graduation. Of course, this expectation can lead to disappointment, as the reality is that film school – like any other educational institution – is a platform for learning, networking, and developing skills.

Nonetheless, students who leverage this platform effectively – those who work hard, build a network, and seek out opportunities – benefit immensely from the film school environment. It’s this group of focused, hard-working students whose success is almost always assured.

Take, for example, Andrew Park. As an acting student at the Toronto Film School, he ditched his finance job, faced his fears, and despite initial disapproval, his hard work paid off when he landed a role on CBC’s “Kim’s Convenience.” The best part – he landed the gig before graduating

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That’s a wrap

So, should you go to film school? In the end, the decision is up to you and it’s going to depend on a multitude of factors including your personal circumstances, your career goals, and your commitment to your craft. 

Regardless, there is no overestimating the value of mentorship, hands-on experience, and network-building when it comes to launching your career in film and television.
While can you certainly learn a whole lot about filmmaking on your own, there’s no denying the fact that film schools – especially those as industry-focused as Toronto Film School – can equip you with these exact essentials. 

Good luck!

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Oh, and one more thing!

Are you looking to break into the film and television industry? And have you already decided film school will be your launchpad for doing so?
Then why not get in touch with a Toronto Film School advisor? 

They can answer any questions you might have about our programs. All you have to do is click this link and fill out the form, and an advisor will be in touch shortly. 

Niko Pajkovic

Niko Pajkovic is a marketing copywriter at the Toronto Film School. He’s also an academically published author whose research focuses on algorithms, AI, and their intersection with film and television. Niko holds an MA in Professional Communication from Toronto Metropolitan University and a Hon. BA in Communication Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University. His freelance bylines include Film Threat, Independent Australia, Film Matters Magazine, and Film Cred.

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