Since its birth in the 20th century, the film industry has gone on to captivate and enthral billions around the globe. From historical epics to slapstick comedies to incisive documentaries, the art of the reel has inspired us to laugh, cry and contemplate the world we live in.
It is no wonder, then, that so many aspire to be filmmakers. It remains one of the most exciting, challenging and rewarding professions out there. It is also an extremely diverse field, with a variety of exciting roles for people with different interests and abilities, from creative directors and screenwriters to technical and detail-oriented editors and camera operators. You can work for large enterprises on productions like Game of Thrones or Star Wars, or choose an entrepreneurial route and start your own YouTube vlog.
Image courtesy of Met Film School
Whatever inspires you, one of the most important decisions you will make before even start your filmmaking journey comes with choosing your film school. Here are 10 things you need to consider when choosing where to study screen-related disciplines, whether it’s undergraduate, postgraduate, or a short course to hone particular skills:
1. Choose a creative location
The location of your school does matter. If you’re looking to become the next big screen creative, you need to be at the heart of a modern, vibrant and creative location. The three big cities – London, Berlin and New York – are usually considered the ideal places to mingle with other screen professionals, develop ideas and build valuable connections. Filmmaking hubs are also home to the best schools, where veteran directors, producers, and screenwriters regularly visit to give talks, or even teach.
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Location is key, but may not be enough on its own to secure the best positions. The screen business is, arguably, one of the most competitive industries in the world, so the best film schools are those with solid relations and links to the industry. Even though your career success largely depends on you, your film school must be able to support you by connecting you to industry through placements and industry-integrated projects. One London school, Met Film School, is based in a working film studio and operates alongside a sister production company – Met Film Production – which allows students to get involved in a variety of real-life projects throughout their studies and after graduation.
Tip: When talking to film schools, ask if they have established relationships and partnerships with different studios, media companies and other potential employers. What industry-related support do they offer? In the competitive world of creative media, the school must offer you more than just CV support.
3. Experienced tutors
Great teachers play an essential role in your education. So what kind of teacher should you be looking for at your ideal film school? First of all, you want to learn from experienced tutors with multiple credits and awards to their name. Then, you need to ensure what you learn is in line with the latest industry trends and techniques. As the world of film and television is constantly changing, you need to learn from someone who is at the forefront of this change and who can provide you with practical, up to-date information. In other words, your ideal tutor is a working screen professional with several years’ experience and some notable credits for projects in film, TV and online.
Image courtesy of Met Film School
4. Collaborative approach
Working with other people is an integral part of any screen project. If you look at how films, TV shows and other screen projects are made, the first thing you notice is that a tremendous amount of people are usually involved in these projects: screenwriters, cinematographers, sound recordists, actors, directors and many, many more. Each one of these roles is crucial for a project’s success and heavily relies on collaboration and communication within the team.
In order to recreate this kind of experience inside the classroom, the best film schools ensure that their students work collaboratively on projects as part of a creative crew. This helps students experience what it really takes to deliver the project from start to finish, and allows them to develop a wide range of soft skills, such as communication, negotiation and project management.
5. Learn from legends
The best film schools have the connections and clout to bring the best directors, screenwriters and other film professionals to the classroom. For a film student, there are few things more inspiring than attending a talk by a household name in the film industry. The Met Film School often welcomes film luminaries to speak or even teach on campus. Previously, the school has hosted Oscar-winning directors like James Marsh (The Theory of Everything), legendary producers like Iain Smith (The Fifth Element, Mad Max: Fury Road), and prominent screenwriters like Neil Landau (Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, Melrose Place, Doogie Howser M.D).
6. A modern and cutting-edge approach
Even though ‘film school’ is a popular term to use, the actual significance of film as a medium has changed dramatically in recent years. With the fast rise of TV and online platforms, the industry is no longer dominated by big screen cinematic projects. To prepare you to be competitive in the market, your film school needs to be less about traditional film and more about the screen – from the tiny screen of your smartphone to the big screen of cinema. The school needs to teach you how to recognise and utilise new opportunities, platforms and business models in today’s modern world.
Tip: When choosing your school, check if it covers the specifics of various platforms, such as TV, mobile and online.
7. CILECT membership
The International Association of Film and Television Schools (CILECT), founded in Cannes, France, is one of the most reputable and respected organisations in the screen industries. CILECT is strongly committed to maintaining the highest possible standards of audio-visual education within its member schools. If you’re looking for proven pedigree in your film education, make sure your school is a member of CILECT, or a similar association.
Your chosen school’s facilities need to provide everything you need to deliver high-quality content; meaning access to equipment, including camera, lighting and sound recording kits, and professional editing software such as Adobe Premiere® Pro and AVID Media Composer. But it’s not always about having the best kit, it’s about being taught how to use it properly and professionally, and building transferable skills so that when technology advances – which it always does – you still possess the underlying knowledge to quickly get to grips with whatever the future throws at you.
Image courtesy of Met Film School
9. Strong reputation
A good film school needs to be recognised both by the higher education sector and the creative industries. Before you commit to your school, make sure it has undergone all relevant quality assessments. If you are planning to attend a film school in the UK, for example, check if it has undergone assessments by The Creative Skillset, The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, or other associations. If you’re choosing a non-degree course, make sure that the school has strong partners and advisors in the industry.
10. Graduate support
It’s hard to overstate the importance of graduate support. In fact, you can truly evaluate your course only after graduation, when you start asking questions like, ‘Can I find a rewarding job?’ ‘Are my skills in demand?’ or ‘Is what I’ve learned actually of use?’. Met Film School takes graduate support very seriously, providing a support team called MetGo that matches students and graduates with relevant work, internships and production opportunities. Meanwhile, MetGo organises career workshops with professional industry guest speakers and also helps raise graduates’ profiles by promoting their short films, TV projects and web series.
This article was sponsored by the Met Film School. A prestigious school based in London’s famous Ealing Studios, the school’s connections are matched by the breadth and intellectual rigor of its courses, which cover every aspect of filmmaking. The school offers general undergraduate degrees in Practical Filmmaking, and postgraduate degrees in everything from Directing, Cinematography and Screenwriting to Postproduction and more. Eighty-two percent of its BA graduates go on to secure a job in the creative industries. Students can also look forward to being taught by working industry professionals with multiple awards to their names, in an environment where industry and education combine.