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Film School: Good Investment or Waste of Money?

The Hollywood Reporter seems to think that if you seek success in Hollywood that the only path leads to film school. I think it’s like that “just visiting” square on the Monopoly board. You aren’t going to jail but you can see it cause you’re visiting. In the same sense, you are not a part of Hollywood by being at a film school cause you are just kind of visiting. Well, the Hollywood Reporter has a list of 12 Film Schools That Are Good Investments for All Wannabe Industry Players.

About the only value that I can see in film school is the networking potential. You might be letting the next Judd Apatow copy your homework. If you don’t know who he is, well, he’s the current hot shit in Hollywood. It would be nice to know the current hot shit. Think of all the perks that would come with that.

Of course, who is to say that you can’t get the same networking opportunities just from volunteering at industry events and whatnot?

And now, a quick look at the 12 schools mentioned by the Hollywood Reporter.

1. American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory. It costs $32,000 per year for the two-year Master’s program. In the first year students work on a cycle project where they make three 20-minute films. Or they could just call it what it is – shorts. Total cost for this program is approx. $64,000.

2. American University. The cost is $31,000 per year for this undergrad program in the Film & Media Arts department of the School of Communication. They are not located in California but have a “Summer in LA” program. They are also supposed to be a good place for those interested in making documentaries. Total cost for this program is approx. $124,000.

3. Boston University. The cost is $35,000 per year for this undergrad program in the Film & Television department of the School of Communication. They also not located in California but have a “Summer in LA” program. Supposedly this is the place to be for “movers & shakers” according to Hollywood Reporter. Although, I would think that LA would be the place to be. Total cost for this program is approx. $140,000.

4. California Institute of the Arts. The cost is $31,000 per year for this undergrad program in the School of Film & Video. CalArts boasts a low student to faculty ratio and nice screening rooms that other’s tuition has paid for. Slackers can get into this school as it looks at portfolio and not GPA. Of course, if you have a portfolio of work why would you bother going to school? Supposedly the place to be for iconoclasts and visionaries. Total cost for this program is approx. $124,000.

5. Columbia University. The cost is $34,000 per year for this undergrad program in the Film department of the School of the Arts. Columbia has a great English program so it is no shock that this is supposed to be a great school for screenwriters. Total cost for this program is approx. $136,000.

6. Loyola Marymount University. The cost is $31,000 per year for this undergrad program in the School of Film & Television. This school has a program sponsored by SONY and has a Hollywood accessible location. Total cost for this program is approx. $124,000.

7. New York University (NYU). The cost is $39,000 per year for this undergrad program in the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film & Television of the Tisch School of the Arts. NYU has a great reputation – but that is really all there is to say about it. It’s a good school, big deal, it costs a small fortune. Total cost for this program is approx. $156,000.

8. Northwestern University. The cost is $35,000 per year for this undergrad program in the Radio, Film & Television department of the School of Communication. This is supposed to be a good place for self-starters. Of course, wouldn’t a self-starter already be in Hollywood doing their own thing? Just sayin’. Total cost for this program is approx. $140,000.

9. Rhode Island School of Design. The cost is $33,000 per year for this undergrad program in the Animation, Film & Television department. Let just say, when I think Rhode Island I think film. As if. I don’t know why you would go here, honestly. Total cost for this program is approx. $132,000.

10. UCLA. The cost is $19,000 per year for non-residents and $7,000 per year for residents for this undergrad program in the Digital Media, Film & Television department. This is the most well know film school there is. That is why you go there. Major networking opportunities. Total cost for this program is approx. $76,000 for non-residents and $28,000 for residents of California.

11. USC. The cost is $35,000 per year for this undergrad program in the Animation, Film & Television department. This is probably the second most well known and respected program after UCLA. Again, networking, networking, networking. Total cost for this program is approx. $140,000.

12. University of Texas at Austin. The cost is $26,000 per year for non-residents and $8,000 per year for residents for this undergrad program in the Radio, Film & Television department of the School of Communication. They also not located in California but have a “Summer in LA” program. On their behalf, Austin is a pretty artsy town and there is a film festival there. Total cost for this program is approx. $104,000 for non-residents and $32,000 for residents of California.

And there is it – the list of schools.

So, looking at this list, the cheapest you can get out of this is $28,000 IF you are a resident of California and can get into UCLA. And the most expensive is NYU at $39,000 a year or $156,000 for four years.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. You could make a pretty slick short for that same $39,000.
  2. Or you could make a starter indie full length feature for that $39,000.
  3. You can make one heck of an indie full length feature with $156,000. You can probably even get some name talent for that price.
  4. Or you can make several shorts for that $156,000.
  5. You get more experience from not going to film school and actually making films instead.
  6. However, you lose that networking that happens in film school, so you have to make up for that some other way.
  7. All in all, I think film school is a big waste of money. Not to mention time. That is 4 years you lose!

2 Comments

  1. Cool post. Thanks. I’ve been searching around on internet forums for whether film schools are worth it and that seems to be the consensus.

    In so many words, even film professors are telling people not to waste their time. Other than the contacts, like you say.

    I wonder if it’d be just as productive being a janitor at UCLA for the contacts and working on film on spare time.

  2. I laughed, because I was just telling my dad the same thing yesterday. I went to Academy of Art for a week and the teachers were total losers. I’d rather save some money or get a loan for that much and produce my own films. Totally agree with this post!!

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