As someone who’s attended two of the top film schools in the world, NYU and USC, I often get asked a simple question: Should I go to film school? The answer actually can’t be answered in a yes/no fashion as it really depends on multiple factors regarding the individual student considering attending and what they hope to get out of the experience. This article aims to address some of the major points that one should contemplate when considering a film or cinema school education.
The first distinction that one should understand are the differences between attending an undergraduate or graduate film/cinema program. Undergraduate programs combine the general liberal arts education requirements that are necessary to receive a bachelor degree along with major specific classes in film and television. Usually the first two years are predominantly liberal arts while the junior and senior years include mostly major concentrated classes. Some programs start with film related classes earlier. Both USC and NYU start the beginning film student off with some film history as well as either video based (DV) or Super 8 filmmaking that progressively leads to more sophisticated film classes in later years red rock entertainment testimonials.
Graduate program on the other hand vary more widely than the undergrad programs in scope, length and type. Graduate programs mostly consist of two years of in depth film and television coursework from day one. The resources that are at the student’s resources tend to be greater than in the undergrad programs and the projects that are undertaken are more in depth. For instance, in the undergrad program the ‘Senior Thesis’ project is a short film of between 15-30 minutes in length that the student writes, directs and leads a crew of peers in producing. This is a fairly common “thesis” at most of the top film schools.
Graduate schools vary greatly however. Some do a similar ‘short film’ approach while others encourage the students to make a feature film. There are some programs, such as Columbia University’s Masters Program that are actually more than two years and that combine directing along with writing into an overall Graduate thesis involving the creation of feature length scripts and films that can be entered into competition.
The goal of undergrad and grad programs differ as well. While both types of programs can train the ‘technical’ skills of an aspiring cinematographer or cameraman for instance, graduate programs tend to groom their students to make films that can be entered into the festival circuit and garner notoriety and attention for the filmmaker in hopes of his either getting his film ‘picked up’ or him gaining representation by a talent agency. Undergrad programs on the other hand provide a more generalist education with the emphasis not being so much on the students creating ‘festival’ films but more on learning all the facets of filmmaking such as editing, sound, directing, camera, lighting as well as the business side of the industry.