Best Film Schools Reality Check
Answer: There Aren’t Any “Best Film Schools”
Asking what are the best film schools is kind of like asking “which is the best way to slam my dick in the refrigerator door?” Whether you slave over your application for 3 weeks, dish out a $75 application fee, take out $200,000 in student loans to attend NYU, USC, UCLA, Drexel U, U of Michigan, or any other university film school… your literally have just hurt yourself in a very intimate way.
The idea of best film schools has created a profiteering industry we’ve not seen the likes of since the quack physicians of the early 1900s. The ailment? Filmmaking dreams. The prescription: film school. Students looking for the best film schools eagerly take out huge loans and give them without a second thought to the schools.
What’s the Equipment Like at The “Best Film Schools”?
Typically, the two best film schools in the world are considered to be NYU and USC. Those who cannot meet the Academic standards of NYU or USC find themselves to private for profit schools like New York Film Academy (which spend more than $10 million a year on marketing).
Students at NYU or USC (and New York Film Academy) don’t touch a camera until the later years of their education. Once they do start making films, they are handed a 60 year old non synch film camera that hasn’t been used in the industry forever. This is the Arri-S Camera, shown when it was first a cutting edge technology back in the 1960s and… today.
They then shoot black and white silent 16mm films. This exercise is a holdover from the 1970s! And it’s still being done in 2011.
This is a USC Student film:
and this is an NYU Film School student film:
Is this Really What the Best Film Schools Have to Offer?
Those films cost students $42,000 in tuition. Which is more money than they will be making in a year when they graduate. Furthermore, the cameras used for this exercise are extremely cheap to rent. Where the heck does the other $41,000 go, since it only costs $150 a day to rent an Arri-S?
Within the industry, these films and the schools are considered a joke. So how come people still they are the best film schools?
One main reason is US News and World Report. This popular magazine ranks colleges by an absurd tallying system that includes the school’s reputation and alumni donation amounts. Since NYU and USC are expensive schools often attended by rich, entitled students, they often get the biggest alumni donations. Hence, they always make the top of the list.
But no studio exec, investor, or agent cares about these so called best film schools. And that’s why most film school grads fall flat on their faces after school. But it’s not like they weren’t warned. The Art Institutes, another for profit private school, actually brags about the pathetic “success” of their film school grads. It looks like this:
Their filmmaking degree costs $99,000. Job placement is 60% and the starting salary is around $31,000. They don’t mention the fact that in the film world wages are lower than elsewhere, work is not steady, and hours are longer. While you are working your way into the business you need to be available to work 12 to 14 hour days, and after taxes that $31,000 a year (if you can get that) is less than $450 a week to pay off $99,000 in student loans plus living expenses.
The Associates Degree grads come in second with about $25,000 a year in salary, which is less than $400 a week. Less than an unemployment check!
This isn’t so bad if you are young and hungry and want to work… but any of these jobs you get could without the degree! And then you won’t have the burden of $99,000 in wasteful loans on your back.
So before asking yourself what are the best film schools, take a second look at what is actually required to make a movie. You can do it smarter, faster, and cheaper by just getting on a film set, getting your own equipment, and doing it yourself. It’s how most filmmakers do it. And if you want to get started with something more practical and powerful than the so called “best film schools”, check out Film School Solution.