Film School Modern Filmmaking

Film School vs. Self-Taught: Pros and Cons

Many young, aspiring filmmakers tend to ask themselves: Should I go to film school? This question seems to be getting asked more and more frequently as time goes on while the film industry continues to grow.

Nowadays, it seems like filmmakers now have access to an abundance of resources and information on the web that they can utilize to craft their own projects and learn on their own.

There’s also an observable growth in the usage of inexpensive digital cameras—even cell phones—and platforms for people to easily create and share what they’ve made on various social media and video platforms that can potentially reach large audiences.

None of this was available a couple of decades ago, and the filmmaking landscape was completely different—allowing film school to seem more appealing at the time.

With all that being said, you may still be wondering if film school is worth it. The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer. The question entirely depends on what you, as an individual, deem worthy of your time and money.

Some successful and well-adored filmmakers, such as Christopher Nolan and Steven Spielberg, may argue it isn’t necessary. While others, like Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee, may say otherwise.

Before we jump into some of the pros and cons of film school and whether or not you should consider a self-taught style of filmmaking, check out our funding opportunities if you’re a filmmaker looking to get their idea or script produced for a chance to win up to $10,000 in funding as well as other prizes to help make your film.

Pros: Reasons to Go to Film School

1. Access to Equipment and Crew


Film school is a great option if you’ve been looking to get your hands on some high quality equipment. Some, depending on the school or the program, offer better equipment then others. And, if you’re feeling confused or unsure of how to use specific equipment—such as cameras, sound recorders, or lenses—film schools can teach you how to utilize these important pieces of equipment.

But how do I get into film school with no experience? Do you need a portfolio for film school? These are great questions and can certainly raise some eyebrows.

Applying to film school can be daunting, and the answer depends on which schools you’re looking to apply to. Graduate programs and competitive schools that have a high film school ranking, such as USC, Loyola Marymount University, or Chapman University, may require portfolios that demonstrate an understanding of the craft. However, there are a great sum of film school colleges out there that don’t require portfolios or reels for consideration. They instead will require personal essays or interviews discussing your reasoning and passion for filmmaking.

Another very beneficial aspect of film school is the ability to work on set with other students and like-minded people. Before attending film school, you may have wanted to make a film but were unable to find a crew.

This typically doesn’t happen at a film school where you will often be paired up with other students to work on films together. This is great if you’re interested in a specific role, like cinematographer or production designer, because you will have the chance to work alongside others while getting to practice your role of interest.

If you have a hard time generating ideas alone, you will also be able to come up with short film ideas for school with other creative individuals.

2. Networking

female filmmakers networking on laptops at meeting

A lot of film school graduates tend to say that the connections and personal relationships formed while attending school was the most valuable aspect for them.

If you’re worried about never being able to find your network of like-minded, hungry and determined group of aspiring filmmakers, film school could be a great option to pursue. Whether an online film school or in person, you will have the chance to meet and work with people that could potentially develop into your life-long colleagues and friends.

If you struggle or have a hard time making friends, film schools also kick open doors for internship opportunities. An internship is a great networking tool that can allow students to get an insider look at the gated and mysterious film industry. Even if it’s unpaid, you will gain valuable contacts and insights that can go a long while for you in the long run.

3. Relocation

los Angeles skyline hollywood

Ever dreamed of moving to Los Angeles or New York to live near the center of action? Well, enrolling at a film school can make this dream come true if doing so relocates you to one of the industry’s central hubs.

If you’re wondering which film school you should go to, think about attending an LA or New York film school. Schools in either city open up more doors to potential resources and networking opportunities than other schools. Even film schools in Georgia can be a great location to study film and build valuable connections, considering it’s located near Atlanta, another major industry center. You’ll find some of the top film schools in these particular cities.

However, if you can’t afford the best film schools in Los Angeles, enrolling at a cheaper in-state school can be just as beneficial. Some schools located far away from central filmmaking hubs have several different campuses located in NYC or LA, and even abroad in London.

Film school is also what you get out of it. You shouldn’t solely rely on the location or school ranking because many well-known filmmakers have attended good film schools all around the world, big and small, and have found great success.

Cons: Reasons to Be a Self-Taught Filmmaker

1. Money

jar of coins spilling out on table

Film school requires a hefty investment. Strictly financially speaking, it doesn’t make much sense when considering the vast amount of free or cheap online filmmaking content to learn from. In this day and age, as mentioned before, there’s now a large sum of digital tools and resources that have made the cost of filmmaking drastically cheaper.

The amount film school, and college in general, costs nowadays can outweigh the benefits, especially when considering the high risk a degree in filmmaking can be if you’re expecting to land a job in the industry upon graduating.

Although there’s no guarantee you’ll land a job after graduating, some of the top film school programs will often showcase the top students’ work to industry prospects. AFI is a good example of a graduate level film school that offers their students the opportunity to get noticed with the exceptional work they produce.

It’s also possible to receive financial help with scholarships and grants offered from film schools. So you may not need to pay as much as you think.

Some of the top film schools also offer an array of opportunities and resources for their students to find internships and jobs. Taking the time to network and search for opportunities while attending film school can be very beneficial. Like any other industry, this can greatly increases your odds of landing a good job that could contribute to the return on investment.

However, if you choose not to attend film school, you can instead allocate some of the money you would’ve spent for film school towards your own film projects or festival fees.

2. Irrelevant Assignments

A lot of film schools—especially the ones in big state universities—will require you to complete tedious classes and assignments that are completely irrelevant to what you’re interested in studying. This can quickly diminish the bright-eyed, passionate aspiring filmmaker you saw yourself as before attending school.

Your film school program can also require you to complete an array of classes or assignments that may be related to film in someway, but are irrelevant to the skills and knowledge you wish to gain.

An example of this could be all the film history and theory classes, as well as having to shoot on real film. Although, understanding theory is a crucial part of being a well-rounded filmmaker. But you might not need to know what rabbi the early Hollywood moguls all knew that you might learn in a history class.

It’s important that you maintain your passion and drive for filmmaking and success. You don’t want to lose that spark when taking a difficult film studies course that requires multiple assignment submissions per week. Even though it’s always great to expand your mind and learn new things, it can also deviate from what a lot of students expected to learn in film school.

3. No Job Guarantees

for hire sign

Now that the film industry is more competitive and oversaturated than ever, film school, by no means, will guarantee you a job lined up after graduation.

Film school can also be pretty impractical in terms of transferable skillsets. offers you a degree that gives specific employers little value when considering to hire you. This is because film is entirely subjective and artistic, which takes more than a completion of a film program to achieve great filmmaking and storytelling capabilities.

Just look at some of the greats, for example. Quentin Tarantino never attended film school. He instead, “went to films.”

Steven Spielberg was initially rejected from film school, but then went on to become one of the best filmmakers of this time. All while thousands of film school students graduate each year, unsure of what to do because they don’t have a job lined up.


Even though there are plenty of reasons not to go to film school, there are many reasons to go. If you’re financially able to attend a film school and have the drive and determination to pursue it without getting discouraged by others, by all means, do it! Film school can open up many doors and generate life-changing opportunities that can benefit you in the long run.

Deciding to pursue the self-taught method is great too! If you’re a DIY kind-of-person, that’s wonderful! You ultimately can end up saving a lot of time, effort, and money by choosing not to go to film school.

However, this can come with a hefty price as well because choosing to pursue film on your own will require a large amount of effort, and it’s not for everyone. You’ll need to find books, online courses and tutorials, a network, guidance, equipment, etc., all on your own. It’s not an easy path, but it’s also not impossible. It’s going to take a lot perseverance and an appetite for success.

Whether you’ve went to film school or taught yourself, check out our funding opportunities if you’re looking to get your work financed and produced.

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