Location, location, location! Probably the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of a career in filmmaking is Hollywood. And if not Hollywood, then other movie-making capitals such as New York or Vancouver.
Some states offer film programs, and many are even offered online. And with advances in digital technology, films can truly be made anywhere. So you must decide if you want to be immersed in the industry lifestyle of Hollywood or concentrate on the art of film in a more remote locale.
What Else to Consider
- What are the strenths and focus of the film school?
All film schools have certain strengths, but are they right for you? For example, a school with a fabulous focus on directing might be weaker in screenwriting, which is perhaps what you really want to pursue. Or maybe you'd prefer a more well-rounded curriculum in directing, producing, writing, and editing. Aspiring filmmakers must decide personally which aspect of production is most important and then look at schools with great reputations in those areas.
- Who's in the faculty?
Are faculty at a school currently working or connected to the industry? Hands-on work is vital, so you should find out at how much time is devoted to classroom instruction versus time with a camera and in the production studio.
- Are outside classes offered?
If you want to take classes outside the film school or perhaps get a second major in another area, you will need to consider the quantity and quality of the school's other programs.
- Is making a film while in school your number one priority?
Just because you go to film school doesn't mean you will actually get to make a film while you are there. At some schools, students compete with each other for the chance to direct a film, while students at other schools are required to complete a film or video production before graduation.
- Do they have good career services program? Internships?
When you graduate, will you be left dangling, with no contacts? Ideally, a film school should provide you with some valuable experience and a few good contacts.
- Did anybody famous go there?
Of course you should never choose a school based solely on who was there before you, but there are some advantages to attending a big name school with famous graduates. Those very famous (and very rich) alumni like to support their alma maters, so these schools usually have great equipment, strong reputations, and powerful Hollywood allies. Just know that a big name usually means a big tuition bill, and there are many less famous choices that can provide you with a good film education and help you get started in the movie business.
It's tempting to immediately turn to rankings when choosing a school, but there is no definitive list of the best film schools because flm school rankings tend to rely more on qualitative measures such as student experience and industry reputation.
Most available film school rankings are based on user submissions, such as those at the Library of Annotated Film Schools, meaning anyone who has an opinion can submit it. The downside is the these rankings can become quickly outdated.
Even if there was a magic equation that could quantify what is good and bad about film schools in general and from this calculate which one would be considered "best," that school still may not be the right fit for you.
The key to choosing the school that's best for you is research. Request information from film schools in the U.S. or around the world that you're interested in, read and post questions on filmmaking message boards, and contact a number of alumni from different schools to find out if the experience would be best for you.