If I want to make movies, should I go to film school?
It’s a topic I’ve debated with quite a few people over the years. And I’m guessing, if you frequent this site, the thought has crossed your mind. So let me swing my opinion your way.
Let me be frank. You don’t NEED to go. No one NEEDS to go. I know plenty of people working and succeeding in the industry that never sat in a film production class or worked on a student thesis. And they’re doing just fine.
However, several years ago, there was a popular theory percolating that going to film school actually HURT you. That in an effort to learn how to “do it right”, students were being taught to pump out cookie-cutter, copycat blockbusters with no heart and no character. And that they spent more time stealing from old masterpieces than creating new ones.
Is this true? Of course not. I’m not a worse writer because I learned more about the craft. Might I be better if I’d taken my tuition money and spent it traveling around the world? Well, I’d certainly have better stories…but I doubt I’d be able to tell them any better. Knowledge won’t hurt you, but what you choose to do with it might.
So why should I go to film school?
For the same reason people go to bars, parties, conventions, or any social gathering. To find people of like interests. To find the freaks that are just like you.
When I first left for school, I remember someone telling me the most important thing I’d get out of college was networking. The people I would meet over the next four years would be more instrumental in helping me achieve my goal than my actual education ever would be. And it turned out to be true, but not in the way that I imagined. I thought this meant that at some alumni mixer, I’d meet a producer who would sign me to a big deal or give me the money to make my first feature. I’m sure that’s actually happened to a few people…but no one that I know. No, the most important people you will network with are the ones sitting right beside you in class.
Unlike a song, a painting, a poem, or a novel, movies are more difficult in that they are nearly impossible to be made alone. (Perhaps there is someone out there who made a one man movie they wrote, directed, shot and starred in…but until that wins an Oscar, I’m going to assume that isn’t the majority’s ultimate goal.) Even tiny little student films take a lot of volunteers to get it from the page to the can. And, unless money isn’t an option, you’re gonna need people you trust to help you out.
The friends you make in film school are your gaffers, key grips, actors, and producers. They’re the ones who remind you that the road to your impossible dream can be as rewarding as actually getting there. And then one day, these same friends will become assistants, union workers, or paid professionals. They’ll be the ones with the keys to doors you would have no other way of opening. And someday, they might even become executives, directors, and agents. Now, all of a sudden, the powerless have some of the power.
And they’re your friends.
I didn’t go to film school knowing any of this…and to be honest, I didn’t even figure it out how it worked until recently. All I knew was that I liked it when my friends succeeded and I liked it even more when I helped. Every film I’ve ever made has been through working with people I meet in those three brief years in film school. Sure it was expensive. Yes it was a lot of work. But no one is successful unless a lot of people want them to be.
Besides, you can’t just throw all your money away on hookers and blow, right? Right?
Huh. I didn’t hear any objections.
Hit me back. Until next time…