Film School? Who Needs Film School?
Ahh, the great debate: to film school, or not to film school, that is the question. But, in actuality, it's not really a question: it's a philosophy. Some people argue that film school is an expensive way to have other people siphon off your creativity in a lofty and condescending power play to force you to conform to the values of the past. Others view film school as the only way to build the skills and experience necessary to master the craft of filmmaking. And the truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle.
My experience with the topic is stems back to when I was first debating film school for myself. I had been freelancing for a number of years, but I always felt like my films we lagging in value. No matter the camera I used or lens I bought, I still had a hang-up on the production quality. I wanted to improve, but I didn't know how. So, I turned to the one place that every millennial turns when they're looking to answer a question: YouTube. Tutorial after tutorial, I found answers to almost every question I could throw out there. But, for me, it wasn't articulating to my work. Sure, I a video existed for nearly every topic, but certain topics I didn't think to research.
I found myself on Google, scouring for a class or structured tutorial to help me improve to the professional quality that I was yearning for, when I came across Full Sail University. And the rest, as they say, is history... well, not really.
I earned my Bachelor's degree in Digital Cinematography from Full Sail University in 2019. Overall, the program was absolutely incredible. The format of the program is very different from other colleges in that the courses are mostly one-at-a-time, and run for 4 weeks each. As an accelerated program, you earn your Bachelors over 29 months as opposed to 4 years. No, it wasn't an inexpensive program, but it was worth the investment in my opinion. For me, the flow of the experience amplified my ability to grasp the concepts, and allowed me to evolve my skills over time. Each new concept that was taught was built off of the previous concepts you learned. And the practice of repeating the filmmaking process over and over again through assignments allowed me to gain experience and further understanding.
But, like everything, there are the naysayers. Before enrolling at Full Sail University, I found a plethora of blogs, websites, and YouTubers who trashed the program. They pushed the idea that Full Sail, like many other film schools, were solely interested in your money and couldn't care less if the students gained any value from the program. They touted the success of those who never went to film school. They quoted Quentin Tarantino's "get a camera and try to start making a movie" famous line. What's more, they trashed talked the graduates of Full Sail and other film schools as morons who wasted their money and lack common filmmaking knowledge. - To me, this was a little troubling.
The truth is this: YouTube is full of 'faux'-fessionals. Sure, plenty of people can teach themselves how to operate a camera, and how to edit in Premiere or Final Cut. And yes, everything you learn in film school is obtainable if you're willing to put in the time and effort to research it on your own. But, and this is where the argument starts to fall apart, you have to know where to look. You can study film theory, but what information do you need to extract. You can study composition, but who is going to provide you the feedback on your practice. And you can find tutorials to show you how to edit, but how do you know it's accurate. At the end of the day, it takes a village.
While film school may not be for everyone, it's a value for those who are willing to learn. Plenty of alternatives exist, such as internships, volunteering on film sets, and finding mentors that can help you along the way. And no, a film degree does not guarantee you a job. But, it can help you network with other like-minded people who will prove to be the best support system you'll need when you launch your career. So, don't listen to naysayers. Do what you feel is right for you. Make the experience one that will best help your career advance. And, for the love of everything, please don't trash those who don't follow your path. Creativity is best promoted through altruism.