Be brave or go to film school
So... should you go to film school? If you're reading this, then you probably don't need to.
Why? If you're reading this, it means that you're independent, your resourceful, and you're critical, and these are qualities you need if you're going to be successful without the help of a film school.
Now... ask yourself one thing: are you brave?
Are you brave enough to turn up to events by yourself and speak to strangers?
Are you brave enough to apply for jobs that require experience in roles you've never even heard of?
Are you brave enough to risk losing all your money chasing a dream that you're not even sure you want?
If the answer is no, stop reading this and go to film school.
If the answer is yes, keep reading and please look me up when you're rich and famous.
Ask anyone who went to film school, and by film school I mean any degree-level film course, and they'll tell you the most useful thing they gained was the contacts. No, they don't give you a list of phone numbers when you graduate (actually they kind of do, but no one actually uses them).
Your contacts, are each other. NETWORKING, they call it. That's it. That's all film school is good for. Meeting people who like film as much as you do.
As much as we all hate it, networking is very important. You will try, and you will fail at making a film by yourself (trust me).
A 'Me' Film.
Written by Me.
Produced by ME.
A Film by ME IT'S MINEE I DID IT!
You can rope friends into helping you, but it will never flourish into a creative collaboration unless they're all as dedicated to it as you are. That's why we network. To meet people who have skills, qualities and resources that we don't. We pitch our projects to each other, and if people are interested our your ideas, they'll get involved, and it grows and grows into a NETWORK of creatives that are all dedicated to one idea, your idea, until that idea pretty much just makes itself and then you stamp your name all over it if you want.
p.s. please don't do that.
Oh, but here's why film school kind of sucks. While film school effectively finds a good number of filmmakers, houses them within a reasonable distance from each other, and supplies them with all the equipment they could ever possibly need (actually that does sound pretty good), it does have it's limitations.
For the first month of so, this is great if you're proactive and not an idiot. You'll quite quickly hone-in on some likeminded people and make some exciting films. But then you'll blink, and you've graduated, and that's pretty much all you've got.
Universities, like any institution, are very 'clicky'. If you do an impressive piece of work, it'll get recognised and you'll get the chance to maybe work with a cooler click, or do some cool external work, but at the end of the day, you're at school, and you need to do your homework. So you'll most probably just stick to the group that you made that one good film with in week 1, and spend the next 3 years never really bettering it, but having a great time trying.
And here's another thing that nobody talks about. If you go to film school, you're going to immediately lose 90% of your friends and probably your girl/boyfriend. This is for three reasons:
Number 1 - you're going to spend all of your time with your film friends doing film stuff.
Number 2 - you're going to spend all of your time with your film friends doing film stuff.
Number. Film. Stuff.
This can be true for anyone who moves away to university, but even more so for film students. Filmmaking is very demanding and creates this weird social life where film is the only thing that matters. And if you're not really into film, those people are really annoying (or so I'm told).
And another little thing: Money! Most UK film schools are upwards of £9k a year (plus interest and other scams), and god knows how much they are in America.
£9k a year!!!? You could buy a second-hand RED, insure it, and drop it for less than that.
Or don't do that and...
Get a job. Save up some money. Work as a runner/PA where ever you can (for free/expenses, of course).
Go to networking events. Go to film festivals. Read books. Join film communities. Listen to music. Read scripts. Listen to podcasts. Read articles. Listen to people. And repeat. Repeat this until you find out what qualities you have, that other people want, and what you enjoy doing the most.
Cut to: 2 and a half years later...
You should have a pretty decent network, that's nation-wide, perhaps even international, and you probably even have film school contacts (idiots).
Now, with the money you've saved, invest in yourself and get yourself out there.
Buy a microphone if you want to do sound.
Buy a camera if you want to shoot.
Hire some actors if you want to direct.
Hire a writer if you want to produce.
If, unfortunately, you want to be a writer, there's not much you can do other than just write for a while, so I hope you like your part-time job. Make sure you submit your scripts to competitions and feedback services (such as OURS!)
Now look at you! You're working in film (sort of), in a role you enjoy (sort of) and are well suited to, and you aren't in debt (hopefully). Well done you!
But wait, there's a third option!
Some of the best filmmakers I know, in fact, near enough all of them, went to film school, but they didn't finish it. They did their first year, got the kit, the sudden boost of contacts, made some exciting films in about 48 hours, and moved on to better things before they got hit with coursework.
Yes, you'll have to someday pay back a years worth of university fees, but that's a lot better than 3 or 4 - and you'll have a head start in the biz on those suckers!
That's what I would do. But it's too late for me. I'm a regretter.
I didn't really find my feet as a filmmaker until my final year at Ravensbourne (above...), and by then everyone was moving on, including my 'click' who got full-time jobs. The better filmmakers were now well out of my league, and the mediocre filmmakers had settled into a payroll. Left behind, fighting over the scraps, was a group I like to call the regretters.
A regretter doesn't give up on the dream of being a true independent filmmaker, but are still striving for recognition and approval. And now we're working part-time jobs, making no-budget short films, while the same old names are getting into the festivals that we can't even afford to buy the tickets for. - And that's why Sunday Shorts events are free!
The bottom line for regretters is: We know we could've got to where we are without going to film school, but it took going to film school to realise it.
Learn from us.