First thing’s first, higher education is always a good thing but when it comes to filmmaking, experience is more crucial to acquiring good knowledge. But still, it’s aperpetual question for aspiring filmmakers whether attending film school is a good first step or should they just jump into the fray and learn on their own? Let’s take a closer look at the two.
What’s great about film school is that if you’re a complete novice, it can be a good way of learning all of the technical aspects of filmmaking in one spot. You can learn the ins and outs of a camera, writing scripts, dealing with actors and more. Note that these are technical and not practical. There are film schools that allow students to begin filming off the bat. However, they usually don’t offer professional development or train the students to master the art of and craft of fine filmmaking.
Airline pilots or doctors receive practical training. Getting a feel for what they are doing while they’re doing it. However, with film school, this is often rare and if there are, these are relegated to mere projects and not a way of instruction. What’s more, film schools are expensive. The added burden of possibly going into debt just hoping you could learn a thing or two might not be worth it for many.
Courses are often taught in units by random professors who have stopped making films and focused on instruction instead. It doesn’t mean they’re not good but would you really want a teacher who doesn’t actively practice the craft they are teaching?
The flipside of going to film school is learning by yourself and taking responsibility for your training. Doing this frees you up from the conventions of teachers and peers. Sure, you’ll need to figure out a lot of things by yourself but the things you learn in film school can be learned online, through books or simply by shooting your own film. The more you do it, the more chances you’ll review your work and see things you don’t like. You’ll easily learn by heart which settings, camera angles, lenses you like and which ones you don’t.
Of course, with self-study comes a lot of responsibility. It’s up to you to improve your work and learn new things. There are aspiring filmmakers who take this route only to find themselves stagnant because they’ve found a formula that’s comfortable to them and have stuck by it. Instead of continuing to improve and learn, they rehash the same techniques over and over again. This is something you need to be aware of and you need to avoid.
The right way to becoming a great filmmaker can be whittled down to just simply picking up a camera and shooting. Film schools have their place but don’t rest your hope in them. Learn for yourself and take responsibility for your own improvement.
That’s how good filmmakers are made.