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Film School Decision (1 reply and 1 comment)

2 weeks ago
OMA 2 weeks ago

Hello Roger and fellow forum members,

I was wondering if anyone could share some wisdom on whether it makes a difference as to what film school you attend?

I am turning 28 this year, and I will be going to grad school for film production/cinematography starting either in August or January, depending on whether I attend Florida State University or NFTS (still need to hear back from the latter).

Everything feels kind of up in the air at the moment, and I’m trying to figure out if either school will facilitate my growing as a cinematographer more than the other or if it’s all relative down the line?

And does anyone still really pay attention to what school anyone went to in the end? I know the AFIs and USCs of the world like to advertise how much of a difference their programs can make, but it appears to me the price tag of those institutions is closely linked to the quality of the connections you can potentially make there.

I don’t see myself doing anything else but cinematography, and I feel like this university choice could make or break my future career, but I’m turning to you all to get some closure on whether that feeling is warranted or not.

Thank you Roger for creating such an amazing website, and thanks to all members for making this community what it is. 

The Byre
2 weeks ago
The Byre 2 weeks ago

It does make a difference and it does not make a difference.  I'd better explain!

I worked a long time on the film score side of the business and there, in the UK you really need to have either attended one of the two top music schools (as a composer/arranger) or if you want to work behind the glass, have attended the Surrey Uni 'Tonmeister' course.


Attending a top school like NFTS only gets you looked at.  It won't get the gig!  You get to play with all the right toys and you get looked at by the industry and of course, you will learn something - at least we hope so!  


Attending some private rip-off school will not just get you nowhere, but may even count against you ("He couldn't get into a proper school, so he went to the Wysuckie College for the Totally Dumb!")  What in German is called an Armutszeugnis (certificate of poverty).

Much the same applies to all the other colleges that offer sexy vocational courses but have little or no links to the industry.  That lack of links to the industry is the dead giveaway of a poor or worthless course.

And don't just take their word for any links - check!  Ask the movie makers and TV prod. companies BEFORE committing to any vocational course of any sort!  In the UK there are over 200 film and TV accredited graduate courses churning out thousands and thousands of graduates - most are rubbish!


If you can't get into a top school, or if you can't drum up the crazy money that some of these places want to charge - or you just baulk at the idea of so much student debt - do a Christopher Nolan.  Roll up your sleeves, get some money together (in his case just £3,000) get together with like-minded aspirant actors, lighting and other skills and make a movie.

There is a bit more to his career - he was making stop-motion films at the age of eight (one wonders what he was doing before then, just wasting time no doubt!) and in his youth, he worked with rising-star filmmakers.  He described the UK industry as 'clubby' and 'a bit of a closed shop'.


It's that showreel, that killer project, that clear and undeniable display of your brilliance as a movie maker that gets the breaks.  Not the sheepskin!

Good luck and enjoy the ride!

2 weeks ago

Thanks for the multifaceted response! Definitely some good points in here to think about.

I've always considered film school to be a type of play ground where you can experiment and try things out without it directly affecting your reputation.

Both film schools I've mentioned definitely have good, solid links to their respective industries. I guess the fact that one has a dedicated cinematography program, whereas the other only lets you specialize in your desired field in your second year makes me think about which one will enable me to have the most time to experiment and develop my creative vision.

Thanks again!

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