Filmmaking School: A Practical Guide to Learning and Improving Your Craft

If you have ever watched a movie or even a short film and thought to yourself,”hey that wasn’t so bad, I could totally do that,” you are on track to becoming a filmmaker.  After all, how hard could it be right? All you need is a camera, a crew, and its action!”

Well, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride and if filmmaking was as simple as a scripted dialogue, and some crafty camera skills, then everyone with a decent DSLR camera would be a movie director right?

To put it simply, just like any other profession, filmmaking takes more than just having the right resources or reading a ton of blogs. Basically, getting to a level where you can make movie magic takes time, practice and lots of learning.

Of course it’s possible to cut it in the film industry either as an actor, a film director or a crew member without any degree or academic qualification, but unless you have strong connection to the inner circles of Hollywood’s finest, you will be lying if you say you can make it without grasping the principals that make film work.

It takes time and effort

That’s right. Putting out your ideas in a script, luring an audience into disbelief and suspense is not as easy as it might seem. Becoming an excellent filmmaker requires an understanding of what the filming process is all about.

Whether its cinematography, sound recording, lighting, acting or directing, finding the sweet spot between all the elements of film and knowing where you best fit in (without coming up with total rubbish) takes lots of learning and gathering of information and skills.

Why it’s the right time to be in the filmmaking industry

Who wouldn’t want to be a filmmaker? Apart from having a totally valid reason for binge-watching all day, you also get to be part of a growing industry that is flexible in so many ways.

 Whether you want to be a creative director, an actor, a writer or even a detail-driven cinematographer or movie director, the film industry presents amazing opportunities a good example being a chance to work for great productions like Game of Thrones or other hits on Netflix.

You can even go on and set up your own enterprise and become an indie filmmaker with YouTube and other popular video distribution platforms to help you out. Statistics indicate that the national median growth in salary for filmmakers has been on a steady rise since 2010 at about 6 percent.

In addition, national employment growth for film professionals has been going up since 2009, translating to a healthy industry that is expanding further into the future.

Ever heard of the saying that goes ‘the more you learn the more you earn’? Well in the context of a filmmaking career, this statement totally makes sense. If you want to be at the top of the industry making incisive documentaries, and epic movies, the more you learn about the art of the reel will determine how fast you go up that ladder.

How to go about learning filmmaking

The good news is that there are tons of valuable resources that can help you kick start or even improve your filmmaking skills. From self-guided courses to college degrees and even open courses, the world today is a wealth of information. Heck, most expert filmmakers recommend just picking up a camera and filming your way to the top.

However, whether you are looking for a degree in filmmaking or a simple online course for learning a specific skill, the question of how to pick the best resource for learning filmmaking in 2018 is an important one.

Growing number of Film Programs in Schools

We’ve already seen that you have a good chance of getting paid well for a career in filmmaking but did you know that the film industry is also growing.

In fact, the competition for top film schools has grown almost in parallel as well. A post by PrepScholar (an online SAT prep course) confirms that “top schools like USC's School of Cinematic Arts now boast lower admission rates” of about 3 percent even as statistics reveal a growth in the number of film programs.This means there is more competition for quality film programs.

So with a lot of competition and only a few spots not to mention even fewer quality film schools, how do you know where to apply? Is film school even the right choice for you? Well, if you are set on going to film school here are few tips to look out for as you pick the best film school in 2018.


CILECT is the acronym for the International Association of Film and Television Schools. It boasts of being one of the most reputable organizations in the entertainments industry. Founded in Cranes France, this organization is made up of member schools with high standards of audio-visual education.

Basically, the easiest way to prove the pedigree of a film school would be to check if the film school you want to go to is a member of CILECT or any other reputable organization in the industry.  For instance, UK aspiring filmmakers can check whether the school they plan to go to has been assessed by The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education or The Creative Skill Set.

 In your research look for a balance between good reputations in the higher education sector as well as seek opinions of creative professionals in the industry.

Notable Alumni

If a film school has a good number of alumni who have secured top spots in the filmmaking industry, it would probably be meaningful to consider such a school as that is a reasonable indicator of a performing film school.

 After all, the success of the alumni would mean that the school is capable of providing sufficient resources, quality education and industry connections that the students need to kick-start their career. With a long list of notable alumni, you can be sure that you are settling for a top tier film school that will offer quality.

Creative ideal location

To some, this might seem a bit odd but the location of your film school actually matters. If your film school is located at the heart of a creative and vibrant city like New York, you can be sure to find like-minded individuals and professionals who will help you along the way.

 In cities such as New York, Los Angeles, London, and Berlin, you will be able to mingle with professional and veterans in the industry more often and possibly establish valuable connections.

Connections to the industry

Look for a film school that actually brings in the best industry creative professionals to teach and mentor. Filmmaking, unlike most professions, cannot be taught by the same style and format as other professions. It takes a lot of doing, some practical guidance and many mediocre short films for one to become an expert in the craft.

If you seek out a film school that actually understands this aspect of filmmaking, and does not insist on maintaining the status quo with longwinded lectures and little to no practical courses, you will have a better chance at a great learning experience.

Cutting edge modernized approach

Sure you can start a filmmaking career with little to no equipment, however, a quality film school will offer top-tier facilities for filmmaking to help you diversify your skills as a filmmaker. Learning to use a variety of film equipment can actually give your filmmaking career a much-needed boost. Plus look out for a school that takes up a cutting-edge modern approach to filmmaking.

 Currently, the filmmaking landscape is changing fast with more focus on online platforms as opposed to the traditional TV and big screen platform. Basically, if your school is changing with the times you can be sure to be in good hands.

Graduate support program

The only way to truly gauge the value of your education in film school is to know whether the school you are going for offers a graduate support program. Try and find out whether the skills you plan to learn are actually of use and whether you will find a rewarding job after graduation

Finding a film school that actually takes graduate support seriously is hard, but there exist schools that will match you with relevant work, hook you up with some internship opportunities and even sponsor your short film as you kick-start your career. Look for schools those organize workshops with professionals while inviting guest speakers to help graduates build connections and promote their projects.


Whether you are going your own way as a filmmaker, or taking online courses or even seeking a degree in filmmaking, the above tips will help you land a decent spot as you work to kick-start your filmmaking career successfully.

 As you continue with your research be sure to also ask for more information from the schools you intend to join. This way you will be able to find the best experience that will be worth your time. 

And if you decide to go your own way, be sure to practice the craft of filmmaking while also joining filmmaking forums and groups to get extra help and support.

Have tried applying for to film school? If so what are some of the tips you used to get the best spot? Hit us up in the comment section and let us know your thoughts.

  • Updated last year