Is it cheaper to take the “no film school” route and teach yourself filmmaking? Or, would it be easier on your budget to find an affordable film school and spend the time learning in a structured environment?

In this article, Douglas Schulze, co-founder of the Motion Picture Institute, discusses some pros and cons to think about when considering going to film school over doing it on your own.

Why Not Going To Film School Can Be More Expensive Than Going

You occasionally see their quotes on film blogs and forums; a seasoned pro proclaiming they never went to film school and self-taught their way into the big leagues. Some even boldly recommend that you shouldn’t go to film school. Several well known filmmakers have denounced film schools and advise aspiring filmmakers to take the money they’d put towards schooling and just go out and do it on your own.

First off let’s be clear. A majority of the world’s greatest directors have gone to film school. And, for the small percentage who didn’t, their path to success was paved with a unique set of circumstances that more than likely won’t be available to you.

Here are a few compelling reasons for going to film school.

Film School Provides Structure

Yes, the word dreaded by most free-thinking artisans: structure. Most of us could use a little structure in our lives. In Film School, you create with deadlines in mind. You are given assignments with start and end dates, and you’re more or less forced to make your movies within a timeline. Even if you’re an amazing self starter the structured environment of film school helps you develop a strong work ethic that you will carry with you long after graduation.

Film School Provides Great Networking

Let’s face it; film is a collaborative medium. Your movies are only as good as the people who help you make them. Film school introduces you to cinematographers, gaffers, grips, editors and actors. Ask anyone who works in the film industry and they’ll likely tell you that they got their first break or their last gig from a referral; someone they know. Film school is designed to help you build a networking base.

Film School Lets You Make Affordable Mistakes

Before you max out a credit card trying to figure out what kind of filmmaker you want to be, consider going to film school. In Film School, projects are designed to help you discover your strengths as a storyteller. You’re encouraged to take risks in a structured environment by making small projects designed to help you learn the kind of filmmaker you should be.

Film School is Good, but a Degree is Not Necessary

Although we are providing a strong argument for going to film school, it is as important to understand that the movie biz is NOT a degree oriented field. In other words, a Bachelor’s in Film Studies isn’t going to get you a job in the biz. Schooling is paramount to any degree. School is important, but the degree status not so much. This is where certificate and film trade schools are gaining in popularity. So look for quality 1- and 2-year film programs that will school you without forcing you to take 2-3 years of electives.

There are many other reasons why film school is better than no film school. Like, do you know the difference between acting for film and acting for live theater? If you don’t you may end up with overly theatrical performances in your movie; a surefire way to not get into a festival.

The Do-It-Yourself “No Film School” route requires, and even demands, that you be hyper-motivated:

  • It demands that you have amazing self-awareness and the ability to see all of your mistakes and improve upon them.
  • Not going to film school requires you to purchase and amass an arsenal of gear that could be out dated before you’ve even paid for it.
  • Not going to film school demands you get up every morning and chart a course not fully sure you are going the right way.

So, before you let that one online article derail your plans for film school and give you false expectations that you can simply stumble your way to greatness, keep in mind that most working filmmakers have a film school background. And those few who didn’t go to film school have spent years honing their craft on sets. So when you’re looking at films schools just remember; sometimes it’s more expensive to not go.

Sometimes not going to film school is more expensive than going.