No college subject across the U.S. has been growing faster over the past decade than film and video. There are more schools that offer film study programs; there are more classes per school; and there are more students per class.
For the first time in the history of these media, one’s college credentials are actually considered when applying for a job. The right film school, plus the desired skill-set, can lead to quicker and more remunerative employment.
So, the key questions asked by prospective students, their parents and their relatives are:
1. To which film school should I apply?
The most famous and largest programs may not be the best for you. It depends on what skills you wish to develop: writing, directing, cinematography, etc. Also, the location will be important – close to home, the “big city” (e.g., Los Angeles, New York). And what is your taste for competitiveness? Are you more comfortable as a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond? Finally, you would want to know “rate of employment” after graduation. You might be surprised that the biggest programs often have a low rate; and some of the lesser-known programs have a larger rate.
As a private consultant, I often work with prospective film students to get them into the correct program for them. One thing I do with aspiring students is to get answers to the questions above and then steer them toward the film school program that fits. We shape the application to fit the schools that are likely to work for that individual student.
Since I’ve taught in most of the college and university programs, I know which ones have the highest success rate after graduation, and, naturally, I favor those whose graduates are most likely to get jobs!
2. What can I do to boost my chances of being accepted?
One thing you must do before applying is to KNOW and understand what each program is looking for. Then you can decide which to pursue. Since every film school has different emphases, you can shape your application to that particular program’s requirements. You must be clear on your own goals and purposes, and then state them in a way that will be well-received by the institution. It may be that not everyone is suited for every program – so much depends on aptitudes. I’ve looked extensively into this, and everyone whom I’ve mentored into a specific film program has been successful in that program.
3. How important is my demo reel?
It may seem contradictory – you’re going to a film school to develop your abilities, yet you must submit some work that you’ve already done Aha! Therein lies the rub. What SHOULD a reel show? There are three simple criteria which I’ve tested out at film schools across the country. When you know these, you’ll put the right emphasis on your demo work.
4. Are there alternatives to the film school route?
A college, large or small, may not be the best choice for you. It might be that a customized one-on-one study plan may be a superior path for you to follow. When you achieve the proper level of competence, you may even be able to work with real filmmakers – as an apprentice or assistant. I often help to arrange this.
There ARE answers to all these questions, and I regularly assist my consulting clients with the procedure. (EVERY client whom I’ve counseled in this area has ended up in the college of their choice, or with a highly customized private study program with me.)
Some successes have included:
Two groups of students have made series of webisodes, and are now entertaining offers to turn them into tv series.
Another, who started in college but shifted over to a private consultation with me, has made six feature films.
Still another, recently graduated from a college into which I mentored him, has won numerous festivals for a documentary, and has stepped right into jobs filming documentaries for others.
If you want to make films, you must train – colleges, universities and private consulting are all viable routes. Some guidance along the way can help!