A lot of people ask me if they need to go to film school and the short answer is no. No one really needs to attend film school. It is a luxury. Below I’ve broken down my thoughts in a series of pros and cons on the subject.
Hard work: I wrote a ridiculous amount in film school. I wrote over 13 short films and had 13 shorts produced. I wrote 4 feature length screenplays. I directed, produced, edited (baaah, not an editor by any means), worked on a feature, and did a multitude of jobs on set. (Heck, I even directed a stage production!) Most of the time I couldn’t tell you what time zone I was in and I only knew the passing of the hour when we were shooting outside (feared the magic hour slipping away). I loved every minute of it.
The connections: I hung out with a tight group of filmmakers (for more information on those film pals read my post on The Film Squad) who love film. I dig these guys! They’re amazing (yup, I’m jumping up and down).
Failure is a good thing: I was shooting a project on a Bolex and I loaded the film wrong. It was a disaster. I never did it again.
Stuff gets weird: I was working on a script for a friends thesis film and I took it to a strange place. There were animated bugs, slugs, and other slimy things (yeah, it got really bizarre). He didn’t care for it, which was okay. I realized that I was experimenting with my own writing, which really opened up my creativity and allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone.
Know thyself: Before I had decided on film school I had actually considered med school (not kidding), so before taking that giant leap, consider your career path, who you are, and what you really want in life.
It costs BIG bucks: Honestly, I paid way too much for film school. It’s like I own an invisible airplane, I mean I know I own it, but I just can’t find it.
You will work your ass off: If you’re not sleep deprived from writing, being on set, or editing then you’re doing it wrong.
The smell: Consider a high school boys locker room mixed with a school bus after someone has spewed up pizza and then consider that smell inside of a 9×9 editing bay. It’s not pretty.
Actors: You will work with actors who are just starting out as actors. Those beginners will act like they have been in the film business for decades. Their egos are HUGE. They are a pain in the ass. You can’t tell them they are a pain in the ass, because they have the emotional capacity of a teaspoon and you are desperate for them to hit their mark, know their lines, and not shag the boom operator. It’s a very love/hate relationship. My advice is to embrace neutrality like Switzerland.
You will gain weight and lose weight: Yeah, there is a lot of sitting around when you’re developing/writing, a more sitting while on set, and even more sitting in editing. It’s unhealthy. But the good thing is the stress also helps curb the appetite, but increase drinking. It’s a slippery slope. I went to film school in San Francisco, so the hills, walking, and frisbee helped keep the fluctuation to a minimum.
In the end it’s your choice, not mine, not your family, nor your junior high coach, so if you’re on the fence about film school then maybe you need to do more research. The landscape of the film business is changing, so maybe there are other options to consider like taking courses online, at a community college, or checking out some extensions (UCLA Extension offers some great courses).