Post-secondary education is a mixed bag of potential, stress, and promises. Film school can be even messier when you consider that part of what it's selling is a connection to pop culture and the fantasy behind film and television production. For anyone considering or who is already in a film program, here are some common misconceptions about film school that I'd like to dispel.
1. Film School Makes Filmmakers. FALSE.
Whether you're taking a technical or creative program, a film degree can't make the same promises as a degree in education or engineering can. Film school is intended to help you understand the technical aspects of film production in cooperation with the creative elements that help fuel ideas, but ultimately, the onus is on you to develop yourself as an artist. It's not that film school won't help foster your career, but it's real job is to nurture a talent that's already there within you, not create it from scratch.
2. Your Grades Don't Matter. FALSE.
Frankly, your grades aren't as important as the work you create in film school, but you're fooling yourself if you think that you don't have to bother with marks. Employers might not care as much, but your reputation with film profs can sink if you don't make an effort and that's just another way of cheating yourself out of improving.
3. Film School is Easy. FALSE.
It's easy to overlook the challenges of actually creating a film project, but the moment your tasked with writing, casting, shooting, editing, and screening a project on someone else's deadline you'll quickly realize that there's no coasting.
4. Film School is a Ticket to the Top. FALSE.
Many believe that a film school education will entitle them to working as a director, producer, editor, or screenplay writer as soon as they graduate. This is rarely the case. Taking into account where you go to school, the kind of film program you take part in, and your personal connections, for the average person your education is simply a means of entering the industry, not starting out in your dream position.
5. A Film Degree is Necessary. FALSE.
Connections and experience matter more than a degree in film. Speaking personally, employers have had far more interest in the festivals I've taken part in and the clients that I've worked for than where I went to school.
6. Film School is the Most Practical Option. FALSE.
Film School is simply an option, but the variables on whether it's the right choice for you come down to your location, financial situation, connections, and what you want to do. There are as many reasons not to go to film school as there are to go. Great filmmakers are born from great experiences, and the real challenge is finding and creating your own.
7. Film School Provides Real World Experience. FALSE.
It's unfortunate, but most film schools and programs are internal operations that serve to produce degrees not real world experience. There are exceptions, and some programs are more versatile than others, but the real focus is on developing a skill set, knowledge, and basic technical know-how about the medium of film. This canned environment, while valuable, is often not entirely applicable to the work you're more likely to be doing when you graduate.
8. (After Reading All of These) Film School Isn't Worth It. FALSE.
As I've said many times, there are numerous reasons why film school isn't the right choice for everyone. However, film school put me in touch with a handful of like-minded people that helped me grow creatively, helped me fine tune my interest in editing, helped me build a portfolio of work, and provided challenges that made me more fearless about how I approach media and clients. Film school can be a springboard, but you have to be willing to jump.