Is Film School Necessary for a Beginner?

Any aspiring filmmaker’s quest to get a film education from a recognized school is quite normal. But if you dig into all-time greats’ film education backgrounds, most of them never went to film schools. Then, you question yourself – is film school necessary?

When you want to venture into filmmaking, you have a lot of reservation about its process. Filmmaking, as it may seem, involves a very cumbersome process. It is not a one-man job and requires a collaboration of many experts from various streams.

For a newbie filmmaker, the biggest fear is how I will manage so many departments with little knowledge and no experience? How will I stage scenes without knowing much about the technicalities of cinematography and production? These concerns are just the tip of the iceberg, the deeper you swim, the bigger the concerns get. So you question yourself – Is film school necessary to know it all?

Well, to be honest, in my case,  I never got to that stage as my parents felt it was not a good career to pursue. The profession has more tragic stories than that of success. My uncle, unfortunately, was one of the victims. Hence in no way, I would be funded for a film school. My case may differ than yours. Today, the film schools have proliferated across the globe.Yes, they are unaffordable to many, but you can always get into them with financial aids or student loans.

The question persists – Is film school necessary?

We all know filmmaking is storytelling with pictures and sound. I firmly believe, stories can be told by anyone. You don’t need to be a published author to don that hat. Similarly, visual storytelling is not a proprietorship of only filmmakers with a school degree.

With the advent of new media gadgets, today, we all are empowered to make films with our whims and fancies. We are no longer in need of a professional degree to do that job. Anyway, filmmaking was never a job. So how can you learn the ropes of filmmaking without being taught from a premier institution? To answer that, you have to get few apprehensions out of the way to see good clarity in your quest to be a better filmmaker.

  • Why do you want to become a filmmaker?
  • Can I learn filmmaking without going to a film school?
  • Will I get to make films for the greatest studio in Hollywood without a film degree?
  • What are the qualities of a good filmmaker?
  • Can I be good in filmmaking without a film school education?

Why do you want to become a filmmaker?

Are you a storyteller or a story sucker? Are you just a lover of cinema or you have stories boiling inside you that need to be told. If you are the latter, my buck is on you.

I have seen people with the passion, being happy only to be known as a filmmaker. Is that enough? Just by being known as a filmmaker are your desires satiated? When you ask them about what are the stories they want to say? Mostly you get answers like- it is about a guy from Star Wars in a Matrix-like situation set in a fantasy world of The Game of Thrones. Well, I just made that up; but the truth is most newbies don’t know why they want to become filmmakers. They are just a step above the fanboys because they love the process. There is no harm in it. In fact, that is the right direction.

What we are dealing here, is to get more clarity on your quest of becoming good in filmmaking. The more clarity you have in your stories and the better answer you shall possess to the question. You got to know your “Why” before moving ahead.

Can you learn the craft without going to a film school?

Yes of course! Filmmaking is not like learning nuclear physics. As I told earlier, everyone can make films. But only few can understand nuclear physics. It is just a medium of storytelling.

Don’t we have examples of the twelve-year-olds making and editing videos on youtube that will give many film graduates, a run for the money? With no offense to the graduates, where I am arriving at is that you need to know the art of telling stories. Some have it in them, and some learn it.

Film school is not the only place today where you need to learn it. Moreover, it is unaffordable to many. We are fortunate to live in the times where filmmaking is gradually getting inexpensive. Film schools today are losing their exclusivity because of this.

Will you get to make films for the big studios in Hollywood without a film degree?

Will you agree if I say, filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Peter Jackson and Wes Anderson pretty much rule the box office today? Well, they all never went to any film school.

The greats like Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, and Charlie Chaplin too never went to film school.  If you dig into it, the list is endless. Hence the studios’ bias to the film graduates is a fallacy.

What are the qualities of a good filmmaker?

It is a difficult question to answer. I don’t want to blabber on the theoretical aspects of it as I find it too impractical. You are asking a serious question to yourself, and your future will shape according to the answers you find out. So, I have a strategy which holds good for me as I go back every time to these answers when I am lost.

I first ask myself – how do you define a good film? This is again very subjective. But, there are certain films you like and there are many you hate. There are some genres which you prefer over the other. So write down those films and genres. Now, you write down, why you like or love those films. Which are the scenes that you admire and are engraved in your mind forever? Why did you love them so much? Was it the acting or the movement of the camera? Was it the mood and the lighting of the scene? With the answers, you will find some distinct likes and dislikes.

You have some favorite filmmakers who never fail your expectations from their films. So, what works for you is “good filmmaking.” But the essential quality about why it connected with you so well, is how the story is told or described. So do you want to say such stories? Can this be learned? Yes, Do I need to be in a film school for that? We will come to that later.

Can I be good in filmmaking without a film school education?

This is a reservation which you need to erase from your thinking. To aspire, to achieve great dreams, you need to sweat. You need a healthy mindset and a great attitude. Filmmaking is Herculean, tedious, chaotic and at most of the times, uncontrollable. It is crazily tough to realize your vision on the silver screen.

As somebody once quoted – If you want to make films, it is easy. But, If you’re going to make good films, it is tough; And, if you’re going to make great movies, it is sheer destiny. So nothing comes easy on the platter unless you grind.

Do I have it in me?

Now, you have to answer that as to how self-aware you are? Are you an action taker? Have you taken risks in life? Do you have the penchant for learning things by yourself? It is very similar to a life of an entrepreneur. You delve in the dominion of uncertainty. How prepared you are, comes from your hardships and the methods; not from the bookish knowledge you have acquired.

So, try to assess your capabilities and your talent. Double check with your friends about your way of telling stories. They are your best critics. Always strive to make your stories better. Always develop a practice of narrating in an engaging manner. These are simple yet your most effective tools of storytelling for life. This is how you improve your style of communicating. You only need this basic quality of being a better filmmaker. Nobody can teach this. These are your intrinsic being. Either you have it or you develop it.

First of all, the techniques and style will come with time, and you don’t need to know everything initially. It is a collaborative effort. You can’t know it all. You can always delegate by choosing the experts from their streams. Things will fall into place if you have a great engaging story and you know how to narrate it better.

Do I need to be in a film school for being a good filmmaker?

While my answer is obvious and making films without any formal education is what motivated me to start this website, but you have to strive towards becoming a good filmmaker steadily. Furthermore, nobody can teach you to be a good filmmaker; you have to become one.

I am here to share my experience and efficiently educate the concepts. Similarly, I will also learn from you if you ask tough questions or share valuable content and am very happy to contribute to your filmmaking journey with the hope that my endeavors are helpful to you.

Thank you.

Please leave your comment or share with your friends, if it was any help to you. I will be happy to answer. Your feedbacks are important.

Also, read : 10 Film School Myths Busted

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