Which Is the Best School To Learn Filmmaking?

December 2, 2023


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An Incomplete Guide to the Best Film Schools

Which is the best school to learn filmmaking!?!?

Written by Colette Nichol, Solo Filmmaker and Story Strategist

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Choosing the right film school can be an important step in your journey as an aspiring filmmaker.

It’s not just about learning the craft; it’s also about building a network, honing your skills, and immersing yourself in an environment dedicated to the art of filmmaking.

That said, not every filmmaker needs to go to film school. 

In fact, many successful filmmakers never went to film school at all. While some of them are film school drop outs like Steven Spielberg

So only go to film school if you feel absolutely convicted that it’s the right choice for you.

And remember to consider your student loan debt when deciding. It can be a real blow to emerging filmmakers to graduate and suddenly find themselves working for $20/hour while try to pay off a $100,000 student loan! 

So carefully consider all your options before taking the film school plunge. 

Choosing the right film school can be a pivotal step in the journey of an aspiring filmmaker. Likewise, choosing NOT to go to film school may be the right choice for you. It’s important to consider all your options.

Is it Worth Going to School for Filmmaking?

Film school offers structured learning, access to professional equipment, and mentorship opportunities.

However, it’s not mandatory for a successful career in film. Many successful filmmakers are self-taught, using resources like online filmmaking courses, filmmaking mentorship programs, and practical experience.

If you’re a person who learns best in a group, then film school might be the best option. Consider also that you can often find 8-month technical programs at colleges which cost less and give you the group learning experience.

Do Filmmakers Go to College?

Many filmmakers choose to attend college to gain formal education in film.

This path provides a comprehensive understanding of film theory, technical skills, and industry practices.

Richard Linklater is one well known filmmaker who did go to film school, but he chose an affordable route by taking classes at a community college. Martin Scorsese is another. 

IMAGE CREDIT: David Shankbone from USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Which is the Best Place to Study Filmmaking?

The best place to study filmmaking often depends on your specific interests and career goals.

Look for schools with strong alumni networks, modern equipment, and a curriculum that aligns with your aspirations. Also consider your budget and how much student loan debt you can handle when you graduate.

Be very careful and look at the numbers. 


Because most people graduate from film school and have to get a job that pays an entry level salary, which these days isn’t a heck of a lot.

If you have some hustle, you can make money on the side from video production or PA gigs. But still, you want to be very careful about going into debt for an arts education.

Also watch out for exploitive film schools that charge $100,000+ but don’t have any hard core pedigree.

There are a lot of these types of schools in major cities and film centers around the world. 

I decided to forgo film school and teach myself filmmaking using online resources and courses while also starting a business and getting paid to learn filmmaking and make money as a filmmaker. That’s a great route if you have an entrepreneurial spirit and don’t shy away from hard (but fun!) work.

But, truth alert: it ain’t easy or for the faint of heart.

What is the #1 Ranked Film School?

Globally, schools like the American Film Institute, UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television, and USC’s School of Cinematic Arts are often ranked among the top due to their comprehensive programs, industry associations, and alumni success.

Many filmmakers choose to attend college to gain formal education in film.

What is the #1 Film School in America?

USC’s School of Cinematic Arts is frequently cited as the top film school in the U.S., known for its extensive alumni network and industry-standard facilities.

What Degree Is Best for Filmmaking?

Degrees in film production, cinematography, or screenwriting are common.

The best degree is one that aligns with your career aspirations and offers a balance of practical and theoretical learning. 

Remember that learning doesn’t come from just getting a degree, it comes from making films.

So before you commit to film school, make a documentary short and see if you really actually want to do this full time. Also, ask yourself what your life will look like when you graduate? Be clear on your goals before you enter film school. 

Where Did Quentin Tarantino Go to Film School?

Quentin Tarantino did not attend film school.

He gained his knowledge through extensive self-education and practical experience, demonstrating that formal education is not the only path to success in filmmaking. Also, he was already working in the film industry as an actor before he became a director.

Is Filmmaking a High-Paying Job?

Filmmaking can be a well paid career, especially in directorial, production, or cinematographic roles. 

However, like many creative fields, it can vary widely based on individual success, the scale of projects, and industry demand. There are plenty of filmmakers who make very little money. And almost everyone taking on a a junior role on a film set, earns very little money.

It can take 10-15 years to work your way up the food chain into the director’s chair or a cinematography role on a big budget film set. 

In the meantime, you’ll need to produce your own work to build up a portfolio that gives people a reason to pay you the big bucks.

The best degree is one that aligns with your career aspirations and offers a balance of practical and theoretical learning.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a film school is a BIG decision.

It should be based on careful consideration of your career goals, learning preferences, and the specific strengths of each institution. 

Whether you opt for a traditional school or a self-taught route, remember that continuous learning, networking, and passion are the keys to success in the ever-evolving world of filmmaking.

And, please, for the love of god, remember, you don’t have to go to film school.

Many successful filmmakers have gotten into filmmaking by simply…making films!

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About the Author

Hi! I’m Colette Nichol. I’m a solo filmmaker and story strategist based out of rainy Vancouver, Canada. I’ve been making videos and micro films for small businesses and global brands since 2014.

Plus, I LOVE to help aspiring filmmakers pursue their dreams and start making films. This blog is designed to help you gain the knowledge you need to become a filmmaker.

If you want more, get on the waitlist for the Story Envelope Academy Solo Filmmaking Mentorship Program. It opens up one time per year and is the best way to become a filmmaking or video pro fast!

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