A film school is any educational institution dedicated to teaching aspects of filmmaking, including such subjects as film production, film theory, digital media production, and screenwriting. Film history courses and hands-on technical training are usually incorporated into most film school curricula. Technical training may include instruction in the use and operation of cameras, lighting equipment, film or video editing equipment and software, and other relevant equipment. Film schools may also include courses and training in such subjects as television production, broadcasting, audio engineering, and animation.
Professionals in the film industry hold a variety of opinions on the relevance of a degree in film in relation to the ability to find work and succeed in the field. As in many professions in the arts, some feel that talent cannot be taught. With respect to filmmaking, others feel that learning techniques and understanding the business is crucial to one’s success as a filmmaker.
Those who argue against the necessity of film school cite the high cost of such an education as prohibitive, and assert that an aspiring filmmaker’s money would be better spent on the actual making of a film, the experience of which would offer a more practical hands-on education. At many film schools, including NYU and USC, initial student films in non digital programs are shot with non synch Arri-S or Bolex film cameras manufactured in the mid 20th century. These films are typically shot on black and white reversal film with no dialog, or limited sound added after shooting. Supporters argue that shooting films like these challenge students to creatively express their story without relying on dialog or other modern conventional devices. Opponents question the practicality of having students invest a substantial amount of money using equipment that is no longer used in the industry, and doing simple filmmaking exercises that could be recreated for much less.
Film school proponents argue that a formal education allows for a more rounded theoretical understanding of techniques artistic approaches, and offers the opportunity to gain from the knowledge and experience of professional instructors who work in, or who have worked in, the industry. Often cited as another benefit of film school are the opportunities available to students to work as an intern for filmmakers or in related businesses, such as post-production editing facilities, and to network with others interested in filmmaking who may be in a position to collaborate with the student on a project or to eventually offer work in the industry. Most film schools will hold a festival, or showcase, of student works at the end of a semester or school year. The more prestigious institutions often invite industry executives and producers to attend. However, ambitious individuals not in film school can also pursue such opportunities on their own through cold-calling, joining film industry-related organizations such as IFP, or submitting their work to independent film festivals.
The rise and popularity of independent filmmaking and digital video have influenced this debate, as anyone with a digital camera can shoot a digital work with little formal knowledge of the industry, and can succeed or establish a following by making the work available for viewing or by publicizing it on the internet.
Directors who have attended and earned degrees from film schools include Francis Ford Coppola (UCLA Film School, MFA film directing), Martin Scorsese (NYU Film School, MFA film directing), David Lynch (AFI Conservatory, MFA Film Directing), and George Lucas (USC Film School, BA film directing). Others, such as Stanley Kubrick, Frank Capra, Pedro Almodóvar, Bernardo Bertolucci, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, and Alfred Hitchcock had no formal college film training at all. Film director Werner Herzog has been quite vocal in arguing against film school.
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