Is It Worth Going To Film School?

short film
by vancouverfilmschool

Recently, I received an email from a reader of my blog asking questions about wanting to fulfill his dream of becoming a filmmaker and whether he should attend film school. I’d like to share with you our email conversation…I’ll keep his real name anonymous so I’ll refer to him as Michael:

Hello Ian, My name is Michael and for a long time I have wanted to be a filmmaker/film director.  I’m 26 years old and now i’m reading to make filmmaking my career. I was wondering where should I start, since I have no experience at all. Should I go to film school? or learn on my own? I have no idea what is needed. I would really appreciate if you could advice me and guide me thank you.

Here’s my email reply back to him:

Dear Michael,
First, let me commend you for taking the first step towards honouring your dream to become a filmmaker. Within this email I will give you my best advice to help you move forward towards a career as a filmmaker.
1) Get very clear about what you want. When you say filmmaker…do you mean writer/director? Just film director? Writer/director/producer? Do you eventually want to make big budget Hollywood films? Independent films? Documentaries?
   Once you get clear about what you truly want from filmmaking as a career, I would suggest you write down some short term and long term career goals for yourself.
i.e. (short term goal) I will write and direct a short film by June 10th, 2010.
      (long term goal) I will finish writing my feature film screenplay by July 20th, 2010.
Having career goals will give you a sense of purpose and allow you to make better decisions in order to fullfill your filmmaking dreams.
2) Acquire the right experience, knowledge and skills. The best way to do this is from reading books, taking classes and from doing. Simple trial and error. Here are some books that I recommend you read to gain more knowledge about the art of filmmaking.
(i) Reel to Deal: Everything You Need to Create a Successful Independent Film by Dov S-S Simens
This is an easy and informative read. Very inspiring for someone who’s interested in making movies. Especially for independent film producers. I really like his advice about “first make a movie, then make a deal”.
Also, Dov S-S Simens has a very successful online and DVD package web film school loaded with priceless industry knowledge that helped launch the careers of several high profile Hollywood directors like Guy Ritchie, Christopher Nolan and Baz Luhrmann. I highly recommend his course, check here for more details.

(ii) The Film Director Prepares: A Complete Guide to Directing for Film & TV by Myrl A. Schreibman
Loaded with a vast amount of useful information for newbie film directors ranging from topics like directing actors to camera coverage to how to be professional and efficient onset.

(iii) Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez
Robert Rodriguez is the modern day king of D.I.Y. moviemaking. His book chronicles how he made a feature film for ,000 that launched his film career. What I love about this book is Rodriguez cuts through all the Hollywood noise and b.s. and gives you real,honest, useful tips on what you really need to succeed as an independent movie director.

(IV) The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters: Insider’s Secrets from Hollywood’s Top Writers by Karl Iglesias
Based on conversation with successful working Hollywood script writers like Eric Roth, Akiva Goldsman, Ed Solomon, Nicholas Kazan, Leslie Dixon, Scott Rosenberg, Gerald DiPego, Steven DeSouza, Tom Schulman, Michael Schiffer, Amy Holden Jones, Robin Swicord. This book gives you the real deal about the daily routines and how to break into the industry tips from the writers of many of today’s top Hollywood movies. I really loved what Ron Bass (Rain man) had to say about succeeding as a screenplay writer

(V) Stop Waiting and Make Your Movie by Ian Agard
 This is a film financing guide with 33 information-packed pages of valuable tips and strategies used by both established and emerging filmmakers to secure money for their film productions. For a beginner or expert. If you are an independent filmmaker who needs ,000 to 0,000 to make your short or feature film, then this e-book is for you. To learn more about it, click here.

Film school vs. learn on your own?
That depends on your current life situation, your personality and financial resources. I personally didn’t attend film school because I love to learn from doing, trial and error, making mistakes and learning. Film school will not make you a filmmaker, it simply gives you the tools, the opportunity and resources to play, experiment and find your unique style as a storyteller. You can do that on your own, however, it depends how connected you are with friends and others who will help you make your movies.
If I were starting off with no experience and I wanted to take some filmmaking classes/seminars and I would invest my money in Dov S-S Simens offers valuable and affordable filmmaking knowledge via 2 day seminars, DVDs and streaming online. Filmmakers who have attended his seminars are Guy Ritchie, Christopher Nolan and Baz Luhrmann.

Where should you start?

Here are the first five steps I suggest should take to get the ball rolling on your filmmaking career:
1) If you desire to be a writer as well as a director, go to and start reading screenplays of films you’ve alright watched. Start getting familiar with the structure of screenplays and certain terms.

2) Go to and download celtx. Combines full-feature scriptwriting with pre-production support and also enables online collaboration. Mac, Linux and Windows. (It’s free)

3) Write everyday. Invest at least 15 minutes each day (I write everyday for 1 hour) Just start telling a story. Focus on a genre you love. Horror? Action? Sci-fi? Comedy? Just start writing…it doesn’t have to be perfect. I recommend you aim to write 2 or 3 short scripts. 5 to 10 pages long. While still studying other screenplays from, learn to stretch your imagination building a rich, complex characters and interesting scenes/situations.

4) Gather a crew (some friends) or post an ad on or to hire some actors and crew members.

5) Shoot your movie! Pick the script that you love the most, (passion is important) take your crew and make your movie. I’ll probably encounter setups, problems,etc…this is normal. Just keep moving forward with your production and don’t quit until it done and done right.

   Now you’re a filmmaker!

I understand that I left out a lot of important steps like the film budget, get a film camera and equipment, securing shooting locations, editing the film, music,etc…all these steps you must learn and work out on your own only because I don’t know where you live, your financial situation and resources. For budget, 0 to 1,000 for your first short film is a good start. Everything else can hire and get volunteers via or

The main things are get clear about what you want, start studying from the right books/websites and take action today!

To Your Success,
Ian Agard

So to conclude…is it worth going to film school?

I have friends and acquaintances who have attended film school and they’ve told me it can be a very rewarding and valuable investment into your life and  career, however, the bottom line is you must constantly play, experiment and find your unique style as a storyteller to make it as a filmmaker.

Ian Agard, filmmaker/author/entrepreneur

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