I was at a premier party in Hollywood for a friend’s sitcom pilot last week. This guy is incredible, for the last 2 years he’s been hustling in LA trying to make it as an actor but wasn’t getting any parts he liked. So he went ahead and produced his own sitcom, 1 camera style. And in a packed theater, including many industry peeps, it just killed. Very funny stuff, and he even had some guest stars who have been in movies like “Superbad”.
Anyway, while there I met this Producer/VP of Acquisitions of a boutique company here in town. She also runs an indie film festival downtown. Like most working professionals in LA, she never went to film school. Instead, she moved to LA and started hustling, taking work one very project she could find. Eventually she found her calling (Producing) and built up a solid network of collaborators.
We chatted about film school and it was hysterical. She told me that at the last festival she asked the filmmakers in the audience “How many of you guys have gone to film school?” She said almost everyone raised their hands. Then she asked “If you knew then what you know now about the film business, how many of you would go back?
Out of all the people present, only about 2 raised their hands. Seriously.
This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s everywhere, in every city and country where people make movies. I even received a comment on another blog post recently from Evan Luzi, Assistant Cameraman and creator of theblackandblue.com. “The number of times I hear on set that someone went to film school but felt like they hadn’t learned anything when they actually started working in the industry is staggering.”
Why do film school grads end up regretting their choice?
The main reason is that working on student films is nothing like working on a real film. It’s like pre-school versus high school. Things move slowly and many amateur silly mistakes are made, like the blind leading the blind. If you want to learn the right way, get yourself onto a real film set and learn from people who have been making movies for more than a semester.
Many students are shocked to find that everywhere from NYU to USC to NYFA requires students to pay for their student films ON TOP OF tuition. You’re also competing with hundreds of other students for access to equipment. Meanwhile, the people that skip film school, but their own equipment, and get on real film sets end up making more projects, more connections, and learning more than their counterparts sitting in a classroom, listening to lectures from professors who aren’t even working in the industry.
Additionally, the staggering cost of film school ends up following many grads through the rest of their lives. Which is sad, considering that getting on a film set is something you can do for free, and the skills of filmmaking are simple and intuitive. The average starting salary for an NYU or NYFA graduate is horrifying, well below $25,000 a year if you are being generous. NYU doesn’t provide job placement stats. To see sample job placement stats click here.
My friend who shot that pilot, and is currently being wooed by agents and other powerful people in the biz, did not attend film school. In fact, his brother attended AFI and talked him out of gong to film school. Thank goodness, if he had gone, who knows where he would be today?
Don’t become another regretful statistic. Before wasting your precious time and money on film school, check out Film School Secrets to learn what to do instead.