Should one join a Film School or go it alone?

Essentially, filmmaking is storytelling – but it needs immense amounts of technology.  Technology that is becoming more and more available today.  Pick up a camera (your phone has one) and shoot.  Edit on one of the many free to use editing software (your laptop has one) and put it up on YouTube.  There, you’ve made a film.  You are a filmmaker.

But as anyone knows, there is much more to making films than just using the equipment.  Thus, the typical quandary an aspiring filmmaker faces is, how should I go about learning filmmaking?  There are two typical paths – attending a film school or apprenticing with a filmmaker.

The less expensive of the two is, of course, to find a filmmaker who will take you in as an assistant.  Attending film school costs money – not just tuition and living expenses but also costs of making films while during your education.  And if you factor in that you are putting in time in film school when you could be out in the industry, learning, the choice becomes tough.  Here is a quick look at both paths:

 

Apprenticeship:

All filmmakers need assistants.  Many filmmakers are film schools in themselves – their assistants having graduated to becoming leading filmmakers.  Before film schools proliferated, this was the only way to become a filmmaker.

The great advantage of apprenticing is that you are earning while learning.  Also, you are making contacts every day – contacts that will come in handy when you start out on your own.

The downside is that, along with you, many, many aspirants are jostling to work with each filmmaker of repute.  What sets you apart?  Your enthusiasm, never say die spirit, chutzpah.  Sure.  But how do you get the opportunity to display them to the right person?

 

Why Film School?

First of all, film schools are set up to teach filmmaking.  Understand that filmmaking is a profession – thus, through theory lectures but more through hands on instruction, film schools strive to create professionals.

All faculty in a film school are (or were) working professionals.  You get to interact with filmmakers of different hues – each with their unique vision and area of expertise.  They will typically have hundreds of hours of working experience between them.  You will be able to tap into this wealth of knowledge.

In any decent film school you have access to good equipment.  Although technology is only an enabler – having teachers, lab assistants (who are masters of this technology) around to help you, will let you exploit technology in better ways so you can attain your vision.  Film school is where you will be encouraged to make mistakes so you can learn from them.

Finally, you will be surrounded by other film enthusiasts who will all be aiming to join the industry.  Once you graduate, in the cut-throat, real world, your batch mates, seniors and juniors will be your best support system.

Either way, realize that in this industry, it is who you know that matters almost more than what you know.  So, while film school will provide you a leg up, you will still have to spend time getting to know how the real world works and how to negotiate your space in it.

Good luck.