Is Film School Worth It? 4 Reasons to Reconsider

It’s not exactly news that film school is expensive. Nor is it particularly original to ask whether it’s worthwhile to attend in the first place. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a valuable debate to be had over whether and when film school makes sense for aspiring visual artists.

If you’re not sure you can afford the time and money required to attend an accredited film school, these four reasons to reconsider might solidify your trepidation. On the other hand, maybe they’ll make you realize that you do need an academic foundation for your work after all. You’re the boss ultimately, it’s your call to make.

  1. Film School Is Expensive

Getting a film degree is very different than getting an MBA, but you’d never know it from the sticker price. The country’s top-rated film graduate programs cost upwards of $80,000, with post-graduation success far from guaranteed. For that price, you might as well get a business degree — or apply to medical school.

  1. The List of Self-Taught Successes Is Long

It’s not just entrepreneurial filmmakers like David Mimran or iconoclasts like Quentin Tarantino. Some of the world’s brightest behind-the-camera talents dropped out of film school, or skipped it altogether: Paul Thomas Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, Robert Rodriguez, among many others. Forgoing film school isn’t a ticket to success any more than attending film school is, but the sheer number of degree-less successes sure begs the question.

  1. Low-Cost Educational Opportunities Abound

Just like other educational institutions, film schools are grappling with the edtech revolution. While that’s bad news for sleep-deprived, job-insecure professors and administrators, it’s fantastic for cash-strapped creatives seeking low-cost modules and credits. From single-sitting crash courses to multi-week online certificate programs, a wealth of legitimate film education opportunities abound. Don’t be fooled by the lack of prestige — in many cases, the quality of instruction rivals elite institutions’, despite their protestations.

  1. There Are Other Opportunities to Network

Film school boosters harp on the abundant networking opportunities available to elite film school alumni. They have a point, but they fail to mention the equally abundant networking opportunities available in less clubby settings. Many aspiring filmmakers bypass the old boys’ network (and they’re mostly boys) simply by hanging out at the right cafes, working on the right projects, and joining the right interest groups. Good things can happen anywhere.

Maybe Film School Can Wait

Don’t agonize too long over your decision (or lack thereof) to go to film school. And, whatever you do, don’t listen too closely to what film school boosters have to say on the matter.

Choosing to go to film school isn’t exactly a zero-sum proposition, after all. If you choose not to apply right now, then later decide that you could in fact benefit from formal filmmaking training, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting your foot in the door.

This is particularly likely if you’ve spent the interim in the industry, paying your dues and putting together a quality portfolio for which you deserve to be recognized.

Then again, there’s something to be said for striking while the iron is hot, too. No need to put off a day you strongly suspect will come sooner or later.