Is Film School Necessary to Break Into the Entertainment Industry?

Posted on: Dec 12, 2023

Photo Credit: Oliveromg // Shutterstock

By Benjamin Hickson

In the world of entertainment, experience and connections are crucial. However, gaining experience in film and TV production can be difficult if you don’t already have industry contacts. This is where film school comes into play, providing a head start for many aspiring professionals.

Having spent several years in the TV industry, I’ve heard assertions that film school is a waste of time. Despite this, I’ve found immense value in my education and believe it significantly contributed to my current career success.

Expanding Your Skills

Attending college provides a platform to diversify your skillset, giving you an edge when applying for jobs. While film school may not be a prerequisite for a successful film career, a degree in related fields can enhance your appeal. Film sets hire a variety of roles, from accountants and medics to social media managers.

A degree in public relations or business equips you with communication and budgeting skills, which are invaluable if you aim to be a producer or talent manager.

Certain skills such as walkie etiquette, understanding call sheets, and camera operation can be learned on-set. Standing out in the movie business often requires more and a college education can be beneficial.

The Power of Networking

Networking was a significant benefit from my college experience. Making friends and connections in college can significantly impact your post-college career. One of my college professors, a film producer, allowed some of us to be production assistants on his film set.

This opportunity led to several other jobs, providing me with valuable experience and three feature credits upon graduation. Thanks to college networking, I have friends across the country in various fields.

This diversity is crucial in the fluctuating film world, providing a safety net when I need to find work in their areas.

Developing Social Skills

College is a time for self-discovery and career direction. It’s also an opportunity to develop essential social skills. Whether you attend film school or a traditional university, this period allows you to refine your social skills, which are crucial for a film career.

Understanding Equipment

While at college, I majored in public relations and minored in film. This combination provided a solid foundation, equipping me with essential communication skills and a working knowledge of film sets and equipment.

Familiarity with set rank structure, grip and lighting equipment and general film theory can give you an advantage in the industry. These basics, if learned in school, can help you advance quickly in your career. Attending college or film school is not necessary for a successful film production career. However, based on my experience, the skills and connections gained during my college years have significantly contributed to my knowledge and advancement in the film industry.

When considering film school, think beyond on-set experience. What truly makes a difference is the comprehensive learning that college provides. The answer to “Is film school necessary?” varies. For me, the connections made and the knowledge gained were invaluable, but your perspective may differ.

Regardless, with hard work and a positive attitude, success in this industry is attainable.

Benjamin Hickson is an aspiring producer and production coordinator who has 4+ years experience working on various Film and TV projects. He has a background in Public Relations and served for six years in the military. He also has passion for travel and aims to increase LGBTQ+ representation in the entertainment industry. 

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