March 29, 2011

Is Film School Worth It in 2011?

Note: I have argued both for and against film school in the past, and as I say on this site's about page, "different strokes for different folks." This is a guest post by filmmaker Seth Hymes, who runs Film School Secrets. Image by LuMaxArt.

Film schools are a great place to learn the basics of filmmaking and meet like minded collaborators. They also provide a structured environment to experiment and hone your craft. Unfortunately, I’ve met more than my fair share of young NYU and USC film school alumni deeply in debt with no clear job leads or any idea how to start making movies for a living. I’ve also met many DIYers who wonder if they missed out by skipping school. With tuition costs continuing to rise, and HD equipment costs continuing to plummet, the film school debate is worth reopening in 2011. My goal in this post is to shed some light on the specifics of investing in film school and also share some cheaper alternatives to get a film education in a classroom setting.

The primary benefit most people imagine you get from film school are the connections and job opportunities. But most people have never actually seen a real life job bulletin from one of these schools. Here’s a concrete example of a typical posting from NYU’s weekly job opportunity email board:

I’ve been receiving the NYU job bulletin for more than 10 years, and each posting looks very similar to this. Typically, the most ample job opportunities are non film related. And those that are film related are for the kind of entry level jobs one could easily find on craigslist. I’ve had a chance to examine similar career support tools from other schools like USC and NYFA, and it’s all pretty much the same.

The fact is this: production companies do not turn to film schools for their staffing needs. When I moved to Los Angeles, I registered with an elite temp agency run by Leslie Comer. The agency places people in jobs at Paramount, NBC, Fox, etc. The typical path is to get an entry level job and meet people, then slowly work your way into a desired position.

I was told flat out to put my education at the bottom of my resume. My agent was much more interested in the production work I had done before and after school, gaffing on 2 features and sound mixing on another. The NYU Film degree and student film experience was considered an “extracirricular” benefit. Kind of like joining chess club to make your college applications look good.

What About Newer Film Schools?

The Art Institutes have sprung up all over middle America, while New York Film Academy has conquered the international market like Starbucks. Copying the model of NYU and USC, students pay $30K+ a year to learn basic filmmaking skills. They say you can’t put a price on an education, but The Art Institute’s parent company Educorp is a multi billion dollar a year enterprise, raking in tuition from a variety of art schools all over the world. New York Film Academy spends $10 Million a year on marketing and banks more than that in profits. USC, NYU and LA Film School all cost more than $40,000 a year. That’s more than most film school grads will make their first year in the real world.

And I’m not just pulling that figure out of thin air. Check out this graph, from the Art Institute’s own marketing material:

The Art Institutes has charts like these for all their schools across the country. The figures do accurately reflect the realities of working in the film business. As you can see, filmmaking grads have the lowest job placement percentage at 66%, and one of the lowest starting salaries at around $31,000. It should be noted that most film jobs require much more than a 40 hour work week. After taxes $31,000 is a little more than $450 a week. Yet the total cost of getting a Bachelor’s Degree at AI is over $90,000. That’s between $400 to $600 a month in loan payments, with interest accruing for more than 20 years.

What most film school grads can realistically expect is illustrated perfectly in this photo from a film set in Los Angeles:

In the background, look for the guy in the striped shirt standing behind the guy holding the camera. Striped shirt guy is a Drexel University film school grad working as a Camera Assistant. His job? Turn the knob on the camera. His student debt load? $100,000. The DP is an AFI film grad. What do they have in common? They are both working for Glynn, the guy in the foreground. The director and producer of the film. Glynn never went to film school. In fact, he dropped out of high school, and has been a PA on many major movies for more than 10 years. How did he get his break? He met someone who worked in the business while in London and just showed up.

Not pictured in this shot are 2 New York Film Academy grads, also working for about $75 a day as PAs. I asked them both what they paid for school, and they said $30,000 for the one year program. I asked them if they wanted to make a movie and direct. They said yes. I asked them how they planned on doing that. They didn’t know. As Dov Siemens, Quentin Tarantino’s mentor, likes to point out: less than 1% of film school grads ever make a feature. Many film school grads scramble for entry level work and end up getting hired by people who never went to school.

Cheaper Classroom Alternatives

That said, there is something really great about being in a filmmaking class with other creative people, and it can be quite valuable. So what if you still want the classroom experience without paying full price? I have two suggestions.

1.) Community college. You might think that a place like NYU or USC is light years ahead of your local community college, but that isn’t true. In fact, in Los Angeles, Orange Coast Community College has a TV studio, digital cameras, and film cameras the very same as any of those schools that cost $30,000 a semester. And it only costs $60 or so a credit, compared to almosy $1,200 a credit at a name school.

As digital equipment prices keep dropping, community colleges all over the country and the world are able to purchase the same equipment as name film schools.  Many community colleges also have alumni connections and internship opportunities like name schools. A great example is when I got an internship at Fox News Channel through NYU. It was a great opportunity and I am grateful for it. It led to my first job out of school, as an editor for a national news network. However, one of my buddies went to a community college in New Jersey, and he was already an Advanced Editor when I was hired. He came in through an internship as well, but paid much much less for it.

2.) Get on expensive student film sets for free. Believe it or not, it is very, very easy to get on to an NYU, USC, or NYFA student film set without paying any tuition if you know what to look for and what to say. In fact, you will be right next to students paying $30K a year and get the same kind of hands on experience they are getting without paying the price. You can also get on a pro film set and learn a ton in one day, and start networking and building your resume. I teach students how to do this in my course Film School Secrets.

Film school is a great experience, but make sure you do your research and figure out if it’s best for you. Remember, to be successful it’s not the name on your degree, it’s the quality of the stuff you make!

My name is Seth Hymes, and I’m an NYU Film Grad and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. After graduating NYU it took me a long time to figure out how to actually start getting a movie made, and I did it all without a thing I learned in film school. I realized there was a huge disconnect between what is taught in these schools and what you really need to make movies, which is why I initially wrote “Film Fooled” and then put together Film School Secrets with some of my colleagues. My goal is to help young filmmakers get started on the right path towards realizing their creative dreams without wasting years of time and tons of money on school.

Your Comment


Thats definetly right. the fact is far between what we taught and what is really going on in the set.
what kill u is the fact that most the students in the name filmschools dont know how to start planning for a feature. they just taught the headlines !
of course some filmschools proved to be a good place for the indie filmmakers.
i will apply for an MFA in Chapman or LondonFilmSchool at the very soon, they both will give me what am really looking for.
thanks for the post..its really helpful !

March 29, 2011 at 12:18PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I've always said that if you're interested in becoming a DP or an editing, film school is a great place to get a lot of experience for not a lot of money beyond your tuition. The thing is, film schools are full of wannabe directors who are willing to shell out money to make their film. As a DP, you have the opportunity to potentially shoot a lot of films, get a lot of practice, on a variety of formats. And if you're good, people will be consistently asking you to shoot your film (or in the case of an editor, to cut it).

I give the example I heard from Janusz Kaminski, who at AFI shot over 40 student films. I just shot every film he could and because (I'm sure) he was good, directors were more than ready to let him.

Also, becoming a cinematography (and to some degree, an editor) requires more technical knowledge, film school is a great place to fail, to expose film incorrectly, to mess up a cut, because you're in a learning environment.

Of course, you could attempt this on your own and studying cinematography or editing at film school won't guarantee you a job afterwards, but at least you'll hopefully have a reel.

But if you want to write or direct, there's little that film school can teach you that you can't find in $50 worth of books, a few behind-the-scenes documentaries and life experience.

My other argument against film school for directors is that you end making relatively few films. Your junior/senior years you might make two films. What if those suck? Then you're screwed. I'm made plenty of bad films but I kept making films is the point. I directed 8 full on shorts (meaning, not the little 1 minutes exercises that have you do in film school) and got a lot of experience.

For the price of a Canon 5D and a decent mic you can start shooting some pretty amazing stuff and learn by doing.

March 29, 2011 at 12:42PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I appreciate this post because I'm a recent transfer from an Art Institute. After a few quarters of very basic classes I wasn't really convinced that the education was worth it. I would go beyond the classes in my interest in the subject, at which point I realized I should just be researching and learning on my own. In some classes we would merely talk about online resources we knew of for studying film and video.

The corporate injection is everywhere. You get access to really nice gear and software, but also are subject to strange policies. What pushed me over the edge in the end was a new e-book policy. All required text would be given to students in e-book form, the cost would automatically be rolled into tuition, and you couldn't opt out. Since most teachers don't give assignments with the required text, and I could usually find used books online for really cheap, this was ridiculous. Some speculate this is the beginning of a plan to go all online with classes. This would make their profit higher due to not having to pay instructors, and instead just paying for the server space to host the learning material.

I am definitely of the belief that a strong reel and willingness to show up for jobs goes a lot further than a piece of paper. I'll continue to learn film and video on my own through great online resources, podcasts, books, and experience of just getting out there and doing some jobs.

Thanks again for the great post. Keep them coming!

March 29, 2011 at 12:48PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Film school is a big decision monetarily. Hard to decide.

But please, don't let Seth Hymes (author of this post), sway you in any way. Why? No credibility? Imdb Seth Hymes and see what comes up. Sorry Seth...I don't know you personally, and you might be a smart guy, however, what films have you made. What makes you an authoritative source on this topic?

Seems like Seth is exploiting a question for his own profitability.

March 29, 2011 at 12:56PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Hi BD,

As a graduate of NYU Film with more than 15 years of experience on film sets, being in and around the industry, having raised private investment capital for indie features, I am in a terrific position to advise beginners about the best route to start a film career, particularly when it comes to film school.

Regardless, I recommend everyone listen to what a particular person has to say rather than their credits. Dov Siemens is not a working filmmaker but has helped people like Tarantino and Guy Ritchie and many others get started by giving them no BS advice about the business.

I am not a name director, nor do I claim to be, but as you can see from other comments my advice is straight forward, helpful, and insightful. If someone does not find it to be so, then they should not listen to me.

My course is a great deal, and packed with useful information that makes a real difference for people starting out. I've had satisfied students from the US, Canada, the Netherlands, UK, Mexico, and Australia who love the course. I make no apologies for charging a small fee for the quality information therein, especially when a place like NYFA is making more than $50 million a year peddling useless degrees and even less relevant information.

Check out the exhibits in the post. The $30,000 a year 60% job placement stats from Art Institute off a $90,000 degree (which breaks down to more than $600 a month over 20 to 30 years and more than $40,000 in interest repaid) , or the extremely disappointing job opportunities from the NYU Job Bulletin ($160,000 degree) and answer me: do you really think I am the one exploiting people's desire to make movies for a living?

I appreciate your comment and wish you the very best with your filmmaking endeavors.


March 29, 2011 at 3:08PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Very good article, Here in the UK I’m in my first year of Film School, I happen to have one of the worst attendance rates in the class but I also happen to be one of the very few (about 3 out of 70+) who has had paid work for a filming related job, as well at the moment I’m currently tied down finishing pre-production for an 8 episode web series. I think a lot of people go to a film school and expect to walk out the other end into a feature project, when that at all rarely ever happens. Hopefully I’m going to have something of my own set up before the course ends and maybe I won’t need to finish the course, but here in the UK that piece of paper with the qualification on it tends to help in other area’s not just obtaining a film related job.

March 29, 2011 at 1:00PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Always an intersting subject. And, it's true, your experience far outweighes your education. That being said, I wouldn't trade my time at film school for anything.

I went to Sheridan, outside of Toronto. I suppose part of what made it great, was that they avoided some of the pitfalls that make the big schools, like NYU or Ryerson in Toronto, untenable. It was cheaper, they weren't elitist. Interning was required, volunteering was encouraged. Experimentation was too.

The thing is, to me, that college is about a lot more than just the program you're taking. And, I'm not talking just contacts (altho, I hardly work with any of my fellow grads). Having built-in mentors was huge. So was the social aspect. Everyday we could spend hours in the common talking movies (or whatever). Exposure to the latest & greatest.....companies like AVID and Quantel would install their newest toys for us to experiment with. And, you'd have, at least, an associate's degree to fall back on, if you changed your career pursuit.

For sure, it's not for everyone. And, the only difference between the big schools & little ones is the amount of debt you accumulate. And, if all you care about are the processes and the button-pushing, then I say don't can get that from books and weekend courses and practice with increasingly cheaper equipment.

However, there are things that come with film school (and school in general) that are tougher to acquire (not impossible, mind you) out in the real world.

(Btw, the fact that productions are still paying people $75 or $100 a day pisses me off to no end.)

March 29, 2011 at 3:12PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


At least at the Sacramento AI we're in school, using the schools equipment to film weddings @$1,500+, most of us have the $31,000+ film jobs, and we're only in our 2nd year. You can't get any film job out here without having a degree. Movies aren't the only way to make money.

There is a lot of bullshit at that school. Fees they try to throw at us, we stopped that. The guy in charge of the film department knows nothing, we all know more then him. The only reason our film department is good is because of one teacher. He knows his stuff and sets us up with opportunities. He shows us that movies aren't the only way to make money. Shit I'm still in school and have DPed three northern california commercials.

March 29, 2011 at 3:25PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I look at my film school tuition as a cheap rental contract. I get free access to the school's equipment facility. Which means I can spend 500 bucks instead of 5 grand to make a digital short with good production values. I also have a few years to hone my craft without a huge financial risk. I screw up horribly? I get an F. If I screw up on a real set I get fired and might not get hired again. I do work professionally outside of school, but that's through contacts I met through school. My best contact and recurring gig I actually got at my community college, but I'm getting involved in some really cool projects from contacts I've met at my university.

Of course film school is a waste if you go and just do your homework and class projects. Going to school never made anyone a successful filmmaker. It gives you some opportunities to succeed, but you still need an attitude that'll make you willing to do anything with a smile. I work as a scripty, a gaffer, a grip, dp, camera department, AD, even crafty. And I do well at all of them because I work my ass off and don't complain. That's what film students need to learn how to do, Not this "Oh, I'm a director. I only direct." Pick up a damn camera and play with it. Haul gear, be a runner. Get onto a set. Now you can do that with or without film school, but film school gives you time to learn things and hone your abilities in a low stress environment.

March 29, 2011 at 3:40PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Great post.
However, regarding the website, and some of its content.. there is no credibility at all!
See the video on that page and you will know why!

March 29, 2011 at 3:44PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Hi Vinay,

Thanks for the comment. What exactly are you basing this assertion on?

I decided to shoot a simple, straightforward video on a 5D. The meat of the video is an information rich Power Point presentation about what the course covers in detail. I discuss the meat and potatoes of what is necessary to start working in film, including the importance of getting on film sets, learning to manage a set and hire a crew, and even how to get film school students to work for you for next to nothing.

I discuss the drastic changes in the film business from the late 90s to the present, and how the development of digital technology and the emergence of new distribution avenues, such as the internet, have transformed the business in profound ways. Ways in which the schools are completely out of touch with.

That video alone has been enough for many people to write me and thank me for confirming for them their intuitive sense that going to school is waste.

I am surprised how anyone could come away from that video with questions of credibility. Go check it out, see if I sound like a nutter off the street, or an intelligent and experienced veteran who knows what he is talking about.

Best regards,


March 29, 2011 at 4:19PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


For me it just doesn't sound too professional. Laugh at those who attended film school?

Martin Scorsese, George Lucas - Did they make a mistake by going to film school? !?!
Should we laugh at them?!?! Spielberg tried to get in twice, so it's something he felt was important.

Looking at some of the Academy award nominations from this year.
Black Swan director - Went to Harvard
King's Speech director Tom Hooper - Went to Oxford

I'm not saying all the directors above needed film school or didn't need it, but this "laughing" at education is something I don't agree with.

March 29, 2011 at 8:26PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Hey Brother,

Excellent point, one that is often misunderstood. George Lucas attended USC 40 plus years ago. Back then, it made sense to go to film school. You couldn't get your hands on actual film equipment, there was no video,a and you couldn't even watch a movie (no VHS or DVDs!) The cost of school was also much much less.

Scorsese went to NYU's Graduate Program, which is distinct from the Undergrad program so many young people want to attend. In fact, the "names" from NYU like Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, Ang Lee, etc. mostly graduated from the graduate program. And again, this was more than 30 years ago when the film business was completely different.

And no, film school grads are not taken seriously.

March 30, 2011 at 10:55AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Credibility!!See what you just did there!? You ignored my more recent examples while only making your point in the very far into the past. You didn't touch the more recent examples of the academy award nominees Darren or Tom, because the fact that they had a formal education. Darren even attended AFI!!!

He could've EASILY made a 16mm film (which he still does btw) instead of attending AFI and Harvard.

So should we laugh at Darren because he went to AFI?!!? Harvard?!?!? Were they a waste of time and money for him?!!

See this is what many have an issue with. This "Lets laugh at the people who went to film school" mentality.

Yeah, lets LAUGH at Darren Aronofsky!

March 30, 2011 at 2:57PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Hey Mad P,

Certainly there are successful directors who happened to go to film school, like Darren. However, as I mentioned they are the exception not the rule. I'm referring to recent grads who emerge from school with no solid footing and learn the hard way that their best opportunities are working for low pay on other people's projects, getting coffee, etc. and have no working knowledge of practical matters such as budgeting fundraising managing a production, etc.

It's like in the movies where the grizzled old cop sees the rookie fresh out of school who thinks he knows it all, then they hit the streets and the kid learns all the stuff he never learned in school and has to adjust.

As such yes, recent grads are not taken terribly seriously. If a grad goes ahead and manages to produce a feature film, which is very very rare, then they will be taken more seriously. Less than 1% of film school grads ever make their own feature.


March 31, 2011 at 2:30PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


The famous filmmakers are where they are today because their true talent was from purity and not forced upon by the essence of a school made for the conformity we see every day. What we feel and what we all see is based on the natural selection of mind control, not the arrogant school teachers taught upon us all to see what and where we will go in terms of the film industry and the what it offers, if you know exactly what I mean.

April 4, 2011 at 9:55PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Dear Seth,
Thanks for the reply.
I loved your post regarding the information about why there is no need to attend a film school.

But, when it comes to the video on that site: I am not talking about how you shot it, but the content of it.
For example, the video says that all it requires is 15 minutes to learn about all there is to film lighting.
While this may be a good motivator for people who are just starting, that is not the truth. These are all arts that we are talking about and it requires sufficient practice to master something or know when to use something and when not to use something. I feel that these aspects are more important than the 'How-to-use' issues. I agree when you say that attaining practical skills through working on film sets is essential. My problem is that you make the points that learning of a craft look so easy and its like almost laughing on college education. While this may be required to prove the strength of your argument that, going to filmschool is unnecessary, the argument is not valid in all cases.

I hope I made it clear that my question of credibility is based on the knowledge you chose to ignore! I agree with your argument of not going to film school and the outcome of it, but not on how you argue it.

Making a film is different and making a film that tells a story through character interactions is different.
I have been learning on my own, the different aspects of filmmaking for the past two years and if you say that it only needs 15 minutes or one day to learn how to make a film, I will not agree!
Hence I called the credibility of the content of that video in question.

As a motivator for young students, who are out of high-school, and are contemplating the film school option, this blog post is really good. I would not say the same with the website!

As a suggestion, your site, is un-professional. I have academically studied Usability of web sites and what makes a website look professional. You might want to make some changes to the website's layout, the font, use white-space etc. Just my 2 cents.

For anyone interested, please read, 'The Fountainhead' by Ayn Rand and 'Rebel without a Crew' by Robert Rodriguez and then decide what you want to do.

March 30, 2011 at 12:16AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Thank you for the most insightful post I have seen today. Film school isn't a bad idea because learning film making is easy. It is because we live in an age were you can learn everything they are teaching you there by researching this stuff online and buying a camera and some equipment. What really angers me about the author's post is that he must understand how difficult all this stuff is, he went to film school, but chooses to misrepresent the industry as simple and easy. He must have some motive for lying to us, and the cynic in me says it is for financial gain.

May 30, 2011 at 12:38AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Great article,
30K for a year for a film school??? I'll tell you what, take this money, buy a good video camera for 4k-6k, a great computer for 1.5k- 2k, few books at Amazon for maybe a total of 400 bucks, go for internet tutorials like Hollywood camera works for 500 bucks, follow few blogs like this one, You may still apply for some of these entry level set jobs, ( you don't need a film school for that), in the end of a year you'll know way more about film making, and still got 20k in hands to finance your own production. What about connections? you can make them, in foruns around the web, or attending small workshops for a fraction of the price.

March 29, 2011 at 3:52PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


A proper education does help you more than just teaching you basics and create contacts, those who evolve in the business of film without even finishing high school these days are just strokes of luck, stuff that happens in every line of work, and most likely won't happen to most.

"Is Film School Worth It in 2011?" You have taken a complex question and simplified it by your lack of knowledge.

My point is that the only thing you use as a reference are the costs of studying in a film school, in the US.
Had you searched for it you would know that paying 4000 euros a year for film college studies is already considered alot, in Europe.

If one takes into account that the problem in your question is the US and their high cost college education, then the question itself loses meaning because the US are the exception.

If the main con of having film college studies is how much it costs then that con disappears when you reduce the price from over 30000 dollars to a little over 5600 dollars(4000 euros).

You shouldn't ask yourselfs if a proper education is worth it, you should ask why you pay so much for it.

March 29, 2011 at 5:49PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


That's a great argument, Raphael.

March 30, 2011 at 12:18AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


If you are interested in writing/directing do yourself a favor and get a good solid liberal arts education. You need to learn how to tell a story before you can do anything else. Shooting on a 5D or Red One is easy but becoming a good writer takes time and dedication.

March 29, 2011 at 6:49PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


5 weeks from graduating a film program in Colorado, I feel as though I can say, "I agree". The biggest benefit from school was meeting like-minded people and having the opportunity to make mistakes.

March 29, 2011 at 7:53PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


One thing would like to say, is James Cameron never had formal training........ Look where it got him!

It's all about creativity, research, and experiment. Have the capability of doing those 3 things, then you don't need a fancy film school to make it.

March 29, 2011 at 8:39PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


No offense, but this Seth guy is kind of an idiot. He has some good points about spending money on film school, but, he is SELLING AN ALTERNATIVE TO FILM SCHOOL. So you need to take all of his advice with a ginormous grain of salt.

Watch his video on his website. It is almost a hilarious/bitter take of someone who has failed professionally in the film industry, and thus needs to look elsewhere for income.

Listen to this (quote from his video) "You will learn filmmaking basics in 15 minutes." That is just absurd. Yes, you can learn some stuff in 15 minutes, but it will barely be youtube worthy.

Please guys, read Seth's advice and think about it, scrutinize it, but whatever you do, DO NOT BUY HIS PRODUCT. I can't warn you enough.

Watch his video, and you will see what an oblivious idiot he is. He thinks film equipment schools use cost 3 grand. That is a joke. He also bumbles a lot and can't even create a good sales video (with proper sound) for himself. He even looks like a sleezeball.

March 29, 2011 at 8:41PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Manny P.

Well, Seth actually went to NYU film school, so he's sharing an opinion based on experiences. There is no one "right" opinion. We don't have to devolve into personal attacks here -- I'd like to keep the comments related to the actual content, as opposed to telling someone they look like a sleezeball [sic]. Deal?

March 30, 2011 at 1:48PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Ryan Koo

I withdraw my sleezeball comment, but the rest of the facts remain the same.

I would love to see a dueling point of view column from 2 different authors. Both, established filmmakers, but one went to an accredited film school and one did not.

This article, to me, seems similar to smoking companies testing their own product and coming up with the conclusion that "smoking is not as harmful as it seems" or something. You know what I am saying? I just can't trust the source because of what he is selling...

March 30, 2011 at 2:44PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Manny P.

I agree with the two articles comment and maybe even a debate would be nice between the two. I really don't mind that he's selling something however, as I said above (and this is coming from someone who didn't attend film school).

The "You can laugh at people who went to film school" comment is, to put it nicely, unprofessional and just plain wrong.

March 30, 2011 at 3:05PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Hi Manny,

I'd love to respond to your points. First off, the $3,000. If you examine the NYFA curriculum for both their one year program and digital filmmaking shorter courses, (and at NYU and some other schools), you will see that the main camera still being used is the Panasonic DVX-100a, which we all know is now priced well below $3,000. Furthermore, many schools (including AI) are now positioning themselves as being industry leaders by providing DSLR cameras like the 5D and 7D, which both retail for less than $3,000, albeit the 5D may be $3,200 or a little more with a quality lens and should be dropping as the next model comes out.

Now when it comes to film cameras, this is really worth looking at. Schools that still offer the standard black and white MOS 16mm filmmaking course, like NYU, USC, NYFA, UCLA, etc. are typically using Arri-S Cameras that were manufactured more than 50 years ago. These cameras can be bought for a few grand or you can rent them for about $150, though they are hard to find, because most of the schools have bought them up. And remember, these cameras are obsolete and have almost no relationship to modern cameras; they are without synch sound and cannot be repaired easily as they are no longer being manufactured.

LA Film School requires students to purchase a $3,000 Macbook on top of tuition, which you could just purchase on your own without paying tuition. LA Film School does grant immediate access to Sony EX1 which is a $6K camera. However, the next point in the conversation is that even the cameras that cost more than $6K can be rented for $175 a day or less, which puts the actual cost of shooting a 3 to 5 day short at only $500 to $700 for camera rental, add in some lights, sound equipment, and few crew and you've got it done for under $3,000.

As for the 15 minutes claim, it's true. The basics of filmmaking are extremely simple, which is why it is taught in high schools and even elementary schools. Framing, writing, shooting, editing are simple tasks that then require a lot of practice to perfect. I'm not saying you will be a master in that amount of time.

I'm juxtaposing 15 minutes in contrast to the years of schooling and thousands of dollars most people assume you need to learn the basics of filmmaking, much like Robert Rodriguez's 10 Minute Film School, which is one of the best videos you will ever find, check it out:

The big question remains: why does it cost $40,000 for these things that can be acquired for much much less. Answer: the inflated perception of the value of going to a school. Art Institutes and NYFA are private for profit companies that are banking millions every years, spend more than $10 Mil annual on marketing.

Ultimately it's the responsibility of the consumer to discern this, but until now there just hasn't been much raw, real data about the subject, and clearly there are a lot of opinions. Mostly what I've seen are people repeating the same groundless notions like "school helps you get connected" or "Scorcese went there so i should go" without a detailed examination of the education, classes, equipment, and life after school.

To me, that is like buying a car because it's shiny without doing any real research. And most people are just plugged into the school's marketing material or what they've "heard" from people not in the business, which is like listening to the car salesman about buying the car.

My goal is to address the notion people have that school is necessary and inspire people to just start being creative and take action, and it's never been more possible to do so with all the technological advancements made in recent years.

As for my course, it's an opportunity to hear a step by step account of what myself and other people with experience in the industry recommend instead of film school. And yes, I do get quite passionate about it, because I've spoken with so many grads out here in LA who have $20,000 to $100,000 in debt and are under 22 years of age, and have gotten such positive feedback from my students. I'd like to help the next Tarantino from wasting his talent on school.

I recommend people just go start shooting movies, being pro active, meeting other filmmakers, and getting on film sets. Read a ton of books, read Koo's blog, read "Rebel Without a Crew".

The course will help you reach your goals faster if you go on that route. Can I tell you how to become a famous director? Of course not. Can I give you practical advice that will put you far ahead of most other beginners? Absolutely. Will you learn from my own real world triumphs and failures? I believe you will.

For instance, we talk about generating an appropriate resume, what a Production Manager is looking for when they are hiring, and how to start networking with working filmmakers right now, no matter where you live in the world, for free, without paying for school.

I also teach people to approach film as a small business and think of themselves as a manager so they can get used to being a leader and commanding their set. It's amazing how people gravitate towards movie sets when you have a clear vision, and you can get a lot done for very little with the right mindset and god energy.

You can spend money on school, or I can show you how to have a film school grad work for you for next to nothing. Seriously, even if someone went to USC, you can literally have them working on your movie with a very small budget. It's not complicated, but it requires you to think a little differently.

You also get access to other colleagues of mine in the business who teach screenwriting, producing, and the most important thing: fundraising. Fundraising is the one issue every filmmaker has to deal with and is never addressed in school. My take is to help people start shooting smart and cheap and build from there without wasting all that money on pointless tuition. I don't care how much knowledge your professor has, it isn't worth a year's salary.

And that's ultimately the thing every grad has to face: the fact that they have to make money to support themselves while pursuing a dream. My goal is to help people be smart in how they spend their money, time, and energy. I don't judge anyone who hasn't "made it" yet, and neither should you.

Like Dov Siemens, I don't claim to be a super star filmmaker. I've shot dozens of shorts, long before IMDB, I've been on film sets since I was 17 and have worked as an editor, director, and producer on various projects. I've actually had strangers cut me checks of over $20,000 for private investments, which are still in development.

But most of all I love film, and I love the crazy creativity that seizes you as a filmmaker and won't let go. And I want to help people get on the road towards realizing whatever madness they see in their head as easily and quickly as possible. There are some definite, easy shifts in focus and direction you can make at the beginning of your career to do that and one of those things is getting in league with guys who've been on the ground making movies as opposed to going to school.

Anyone can feel free to email me personally with any questions at

Thanks for participating in this discussion Manny, and I wish you the best of luck with your films.


March 30, 2011 at 4:15PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


That was really informative and you made some great points. Too bad it wasn't your actual article. You toned down your language so much and made so many caveats you were almost refuting yourself. The fact of the matter is you go from "I will get you on a film set" to "practical advice that will put you ahead of most beginners". Come on dude stop the bullshit and the backpedaling and just admit your running a scam.

May 30, 2011 at 12:51AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Frank W.

Move to Miami where the Film Industry is picking up. I'm attending a 4 year Film School at a community College, the top #1 in the nation , and pay 10 % of what you pay for at NYU or USC. Working with Film and Digital. Not bad for a college. Really lays the foundation as a film maker. At the end, it's all up to you to do your extra sacrifices and research. I really like this article. I completely agree. Thanks!

March 29, 2011 at 11:32PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Awesome! That is what I am talking about, and a great thing. A school environment to learn that isn't obscenely overpriced. And I liked your post about the C47 too. Isn't it ridiculous?

March 30, 2011 at 10:57AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I'd like to chime in on this discussion, but since I don't want this page to extend for miles, I'll just post a link to an article I wrote about the pros and cons of film school.

Funny enough, one of my profs read this, and then warned me about what I should be putting on the internet.

March 29, 2011 at 11:32PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I read your blog post and it's really good, very balanced, and insightful. I love that your professor cautioned you about sharing this on the net, it makes total sense. Professors would not really like this discussion to take place in public, as it brings forth real questions that they would rather not talk about.

March 31, 2011 at 2:34PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Im a student at the Colorado Film School in Denver, it's run through a community college and is the best/only film school in colorado. We have a pretty shitty film industry here so im really grateful for cfs being as great as it is. That being said, a move to LA or NY is probably in my future, im banking on experience trumping education (20+ shorts and features in the past three years most outside of school). I will immediately drop school and make the move if I get even the slightest inkling that I could find a job with a studio in la. Filmmaking here, even on paying projects (which are few and far between) are run like student shoots with few people doing many jobs. Thus I think id have a good chance finding work but the distance and lack of business savvy is what limits me and a lot of people in the 303...
Its interesting the you place community colleges as alternatives to film school, when in some areas we don't have the option of universities with decent film programs.
I am in film school. But it being a comm coll its always been something that can easily be abandoned if an opportunity arises to get out of the state. My mom isn't too fond of that idea though.. :)
ps sorry for the grammar, im on my phone in the mountains but thought id post and share my thoughts...

March 30, 2011 at 3:34AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Moving to LA is rough but doable. I have a buddy who went to Full Sail, worked as a TV Cameraman in a small market for 2 years, then came to LA. He struggled for about 6 months but finally after meeting a lot of people hit his groove. It's about tenacity and getting on the ground running, and also being the kind of person people want to work with. People would rather work with you with less experience and an open attitude of wanting to contribute than coming out of school with a haughty attitude. Best of luck!

March 30, 2011 at 10:59AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


The site mentioned in this article is listed there as a trustworthy and not a scam... but so is everything else in there like packages where you create a website to generate you tons of money without you needing to do much anything.

March 30, 2011 at 11:59AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

x is a scam ha.

March 30, 2011 at 2:42PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Manny P.

I need to add to my previous comment that publishing stuff from source with more or less shady background also heavily discredited this site. It's common that money making sites link to each other to gain extra traffic and therefore linking to them pretty much lowers one's own site to the same level. This was extremely bad move from the editor of this site.

March 31, 2011 at 7:54AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I don't know anything about this scam x site and have no affiliation with it. Once you have a site up on the web it's open to a maelstrom of opinions and conjecture from every possible direction.

March 31, 2011 at 2:31PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I went to film school here in the UK - the one thing that I did different to my peers was to work on a low-budget feature for 6-7 weeks unpaid over the summer before my final year.

Over the course of that production I learnt more than I did over the 3 years of studies. It also meant I got to skip a whole module which in turn gave me more time to focus on getting more work.

At the risk of sounding like I'm boasting, three years on from uni and I have now worked on films by Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg and the Coen Brothers.

You make your own luck. I'd say 95% of the people I studied with are now working in dead-end jobs.

In the end I think it all boils down to this: ask yourself honestly if you are a proactive person; if you are, don't bother with uni. You will have the energy and motivation within yourself to create contacts and realise your own projects (especially now that high-quality equipment is available for so little cost - that wasn't the case for me 4 years ago). If you know within yourself that you're not that kind of person, then go to uni. You will surround yourself with like minded people that will boost your motivation and enthusiasm. Use it as a launching-pad to rent out the equipment on your days off, make the most of any connections to the industry the school/tutors may have.

Don't come out of uni clutching a degree thinking you have the keys to the kingdom. Work those 14-16 hour days for ridiculous pay. Say goodbye to your social life. And most of all, always be positive and helpful.

March 30, 2011 at 4:11PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


That is great advice, and what you just said is pretty much the exact same thing I've experience and everyone I know out here in LA has experienced as well. Everyone says "I learned more than one day on set than in all my years in school", which is why I also recommend people to just get on a set and work and learn on the job. Excellent work!

March 31, 2011 at 2:32PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Whew! I could have made a movie in the time it took me to read those comments! lol

March 30, 2011 at 8:57PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Chad Hugghins

The only thing that will get you there is hard work. School can learn you many things, you can also learn them in the field and on the internet/classes/books/... But the only thing that will keep you there is hard work.
The same for photography, ICT,... You learn alot at school, but with hard work you get even more...

Just do what you like to do, if you don't like and love what you do, you will never be good at it....

March 31, 2011 at 6:15AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


It's ironic really, Seth Hymes continually undervalues the need to have a proper education and offers us an alternative.

The irony is that if not for the fact that he attended NYU Film school, no one would care about his alternative, who wants to pay for classes from a nobody who might just be an artistic fraud right?

Like i said, it's ironic really that you undervalue film school education yet your alternative is only credible due to the fact you attended NYU Film school.

March 31, 2011 at 7:08AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Sure you can do a feature film with the money spend in a film school... Still, you cannot buy your network and Film School are good for networking.

March 31, 2011 at 9:13AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Also you can make a bad film for the money you spent on a film school, asumming you were even able to pull off finishing the film.

April 6, 2011 at 3:41PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


This was a very interesting post to read and I liked the discussion very much so in the comments section, even though I do not understand the personal attacks towards the original author.

I come from a very different, but similar back (makes sense right?), background than the film industry. I am a photographer in the military and have been working on combat and video productions for the last 6 years or so. Last year, I was able to attend documentary and broadcast classes at the Newhouse School at Syracuse for two semesters, of course on the government's dime. I can agree that I did not learn as much as I was expecting, with my background. My field production audio classes were fairly basic, however the professor was excellent and even worked on a few Oscar winning films. He also became crucial in providing some guidance to me when it came time for me to shoot my documentary in Europe. Same goes for my documentary classes that I took and broadcast classes. When it came to the technical aspects of filming, I would say I knew more about modern day equipment and filming than my professors did. While they knew more about storytelling and selling an idea.

Looking back after I completed the program, the best thing that I received, was my connections, not only with the professors but the students as well. Before, I did not have many close friends that were experts in the field. Now I have a few. Through the networking, I have met many more. And while, I am still a photographer in the military and plan on staying in until retirement, I collaborate with the people I met at school almost on a weekly basis. Whether it's because I need help, need a favor or just want to B/S about some new gear.

My professors have still been great in providing some advice for me after the program as well. The education, to me, was definitely worth my time, however, like I said, it was mainly because of the networking and not only did I not have to pay a dime, but I was paid to go.

March 31, 2011 at 3:46PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Hey Jason,

That sounds sweet! If people were getting paid to go to film school it might be a different story. That's also why I recommend Community College or a place like, which charges reasonable rates for film courses. In the $400 to $800 range. I'm glad you enjoyed your experience and met good people.

Best of luck,


April 8, 2011 at 10:41PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I have a film degree from CSU, Long Beach circa 1997. Although I enjoyed the program and learned a ton of film history, theory, and hands on experience, by 1998 I was already questioning the value of my B.A. Film & Electronic Arts degree. As I got my start in the industry, I realized I could have started years earlier and may have had equal success.

The networking that goes on with any production is like building your family. You spend so much time together you really get to know who has talent and who doesn’t. There is no hiding. Your work ethic must be completely above board. You might go from working your ass off for five hours straight at 2 AM in rain, to several hours of waiting around for the next set break. Attitude is key. You have to be positive, stalwart when the day is tough, and work hard. Be likable and completely team-focused. I’ve always been amazed at the performance of the crews. Everyone has completely different roles , yet the camaraderie that develops is almost always fulfilling. If you are lazy or have any sort of entitlement that you deserve to be the director—let the dream go. This is all about hard work. These things are the real deal that I never really learned in film school. You have to be on set “to get it”.

I'm guessing 90% of my alumni were not in the business after 3 years because they got stuck in some position they didn't really want. If you don't move fast towards the path you really want to be on, you will get pigeonholed in that position. It's human nature and applies to the film world as well--perhaps even more so since every crew position is so specialized and focused. Don’t want to be a lifer P.A.? Then you better get going and become what you want quickly. There is thus this dichotomy that you want to just break into the business by taking any job just to get on set and being cognizant that you need to make friends with the right group quickly (Directors/DP's/Editors/Producer's/etc) and offer to shadow unpaid—or whatever you can come up with to get on the next gig as a 2nd A.C., 3rd A.D., etc.

Use creativity in your approach to your career. I think the single most factor that limits the career goals of so many is fear of just engaging those they want to be like. Be reasonable, you're not going to get Mr. Lucas to hold your hand and share the ropes, but there are many professionals that are not "known" or even listed on IMDb, that very may be willing to help you learn if you have talent, the drive, and a personality that doesn't preclude you from a working relationship. Not in NY/LA and live in Omaha? Find someone doing what you want and go have coffee.

Every person has to make their own decision. I'm not dogmatic that a film school degree is a waste, but it is certainly NOT a requirement. I've NEVER had a production company ask me for my education credentials. They simply hired me at my day rate based on my qualifications, skill, and the fact that someone else may have suggested I join the crew. This business is completely about networking. One day as gaffer I hire you to be my electric and weeks later you return the favor and make me your swing on another gig. Build a good group of people who like to work with you and you can have a very livable wage and exciting time doing it. It’s pretty simple, actually.

Good conversation! Plenty of great comments and perspectives, thanks for the post. Best success to you all.

March 31, 2011 at 5:20PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I have a question, when you say they never asked you for your education, what job was it? A lower job like a production assistant or something like a gaffer or camera assistant

April 4, 2011 at 9:20PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


A recommendation of a personal friend is much more valuable than what school you went to. I think it is the same in any field. How many of your friends got a job waiting tables because they have a friend who is the bartender?

April 6, 2011 at 3:49PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


No, no, NO!!!! It is not worth it. Tech wise/ Do a few weekend seminars. Cheap ones. It's all basic stuff. Same with screenwriting seminars. DON'T PAY hundreds and thousands f dollars for any of it!! I did the master's program at one of the big film schools. One, maybe 2 teachers out of all of them were worth my time learning from. The rest are hacks who want tenures and sell their screenwriting books; even though hardly any of them have any credits or anything close to it. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on the directing programs also. In this digital age...again...learn on line...or learn on your own! Put your own money into your own movies. The audience is global! It doesn't need an agent or stars!

April 1, 2011 at 10:38PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Well said, Mark. Might I ask what school you attended?


April 8, 2011 at 10:43PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


It's what you know, but more importantly...who you know!

April 2, 2011 at 7:59AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I believe it's WHO knows YOU. We want the person who connects the next gig to know US by our quality work and support to their work in some sense. We then return the favor on our next gig etc, etc, just as Chris Perry said. That's how it works. It's a community thing.

I've been working in pro production for 10 years and no film school here. Just hit it honestly and like you mean it. And NEVER, NEVER be a jerk or a whiner on set, it's long hours, we are all there for one goal, there's little room for attitudes. Seriously key advice is this, always jump right in and help, think ahead of what's needed to get the current and next shot done as best as possible. Don't stand around (but don't get in the way either), always be contributing.

April 4, 2011 at 1:31AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


ABC, always be contributing! I love it! Dude, that is the cardinal rule. Well said.


April 8, 2011 at 10:42PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


The problem is not limited to Film is much larger...why not throw in no MFA..MBA..BA...they're all BS..
Did you know you can be a lawyer in 5 states just be working in a law office..passing the Bar exam and
never going to law school...add another one..No Law School.

Come to think of it what the hell did I learn in high school..nothing that I can remember...another..No High School.

Seriously probably no reason to go to school beyond 8th grade. Whole education system is welfare for
the educated. Just like the Police and Firemen are welfare for the uneducated. Of course all the
politicians will tell you all the teachers are heroes...just like all the cops and firemen are heroes.
Way too many heroes around for my taste...what a joke. Such an unproductive society....crumbles.

As for Life after film school. You need money or connections to people with money. If you have that
you have projects. If you don't have money/connections you don't have projects. Simple really.

April 3, 2011 at 10:53AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Agreed, there is definitely an education bubble in the USA. It's hiding a massive redundancy and obsolescence in the job market and economy as a whole.

April 7, 2011 at 5:45AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Hey Sammy,

Interesting take on law school. My Dad is a Judge and he has actually told me the same thing, that Law School was a waste. I agree, this does speak to a larger issue. Thanks for your thoughts.


April 10, 2011 at 1:15PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I completely agree with most of this post, especially this line: "Seriously probably no reason to go to school beyond 8th grade." In particular, I agree with it in terms of a business degree.

I'm a physics teacher at a top 25 college prep school in the nation. My students are brilliant, but then I learn that quite a few plan on majoring in business (or other 'easy' degrees) in college. I try and try to talk them out of it because a business degree is for a drone who will be working for the true entrepreneurs like Mike Dell (dropped out of UT Austin), Mark Cuban, etc. How would I know? My first degree was in business, and I realized that (most) everyone with my degree would simply be drones. After managing a rock band (and waiting tables) a few years, I went back to school for a second degree in physics/astronomy and that made all the difference and opened many doors. So, every year I try to encourage my students to try to obtain the most challenging and technical degree out there (that's in demand, of course). I encourage physics because it trains you to think critically. Also, for me personally, as I am learning the nuances of film 'part time,' the physics education has made learning the technical aspects (light, lenses, etc.) easy and very enjoyable.

Now, if I can only 'walk away' from my almost six-figure salary and take a real chance by making films the rest of my life. Call me a coward for now. But maybe in 4 years I'll unplug. At least I've been accumulating lots of cool equipment and get 4 months off a year to make some movies. Stay tuned.

May 28, 2012 at 1:52PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


"Remember, to be successful it’s not the name on your degree, it’s the quality of the stuff you make!"
Its is more than the quality of what you make, it is the quality of your involvement in your education. With that comes the quality of the dialogue that you establish with your peers and faculty. And if there are teachers that are not inspiring to some students, the reverse is true.

April 3, 2011 at 12:20PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I'm really unsure about what to do with my film making career. I'm currently doing a univericty course on film production and its awful! The best cameras they have are pd170s, from what I hear on film sets degrees don't matter its the experiance you have that does. I

April 3, 2011 at 3:11PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


(whoops I pressed enter) - I know that if I want to direct it will be the films I make that matter towards this and not the degree I have. I also heard that people in the LA film schools have this lazy attitude towards working hard on film sets - fooled into the idea that its a glamourous buisness - in the end it will be the hard workers that get the job film school or no film school. You can check out my stuff here -

April 3, 2011 at 3:18PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


the link does not work

May 28, 2012 at 1:55PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


This debate comes back around like a boomerang. Here's my succinct two cents in 2x1cent parts :

1) I believe entrenching a hard line connection between 'Getting an Education' and 'Getting a Job' is a path leads to a very dark place of ignorance and narrow thinking. Certainly the former may help the other but I do not believe the later is the sole purpose of the former. There is a great discussion about the Purpose of Education here

Also, I recently wrote a rather scathing review of the Falmouth University College screenwriting course online which is largely about the same issue.

2) if i want to build Bridges I need to study Bridge Building and Architecture. No one would suggest that i can jump in the back yard and start building the golden gate DIY. If you think Filming is any less complex, sophisticated, ambitious, then Architecture then you are pursuing the Wrong profession; a profession you dont deserve to be a part of if you think it so easy and lowly.


April 3, 2011 at 7:34PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Apologies for the typos above. Damn iPhone keyboard... That last para should read....

if i want to build Bridges then I need to study Bridge Building and Architecture. No one would suggest that i can jump in the back yard and start building the Golden Gate DIY. Subsequently, if you think Filmmaking is any less complex, sophisticated or ambitious than Architecture then you are pursuing the Wrong profession; a profession you dont deserve to be a part of if you think it so easy, simplistic or lowly.


April 3, 2011 at 9:51PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Hey Mike,

Actually, the basics of filmmaking are so simple that every day new interesting videos are made by amateurs. Whereas architecture requires specific technical knowledge you really can't get just by picking up a compass and letting loose.

You probably won't find a self made architect out there, but in film the non schooled outrank the schooled exponentially. Many of the best filmmakers are people like James Cameron; doers and movers. Life experience is ultimately a better educational tool than sitting in a classroom. As for the technical prowess necessary to be a good DP... again, I know too many talented working DPs here in LA with no formal education to entertain the idea that school is really helpful.

Ultimately film is a hands on learn as you go process.

Education in general has been watered down and commercialized. I personally feel that the true education that makes a difference in people's lives has to do with communication, self knowledge, dealing with the mind, emotions, creativity, and taking risks. The note taking getting good grades model of education is ineffective and outdated. I've met too many social work majors whose lives are a mess, too many doctors in poor health, too many philosophy majors with no idea what to do with their lives or who they are to give much credence to conventional "higher" education any more. And this is from an honor scholar.

Thanks for the comment, I will make sure to check out your blog.



April 5, 2011 at 3:33PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


It's very possibly true that filmmakers don't need to study film at a university level, but I can't help thinking it would be great if more people who made films showed more evidence of thought.

On the face of it, there is no doubt that films are technically very well made these days, but dear me, the scripts are so awful.

April 4, 2011 at 6:00AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Hi Graham,

True dat. The problem is this. The people who go to college don't learn the business. And the people who learn the business are only focused on making money. Hence, the people with talent and a good vision often don't have the tools they need to effectively navigate the world of budgets, proposals, etc.

And yes, many of the scripts today are awful. But if someone feels they can make money from it, they will green light it.


April 5, 2011 at 3:25PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I am one of those NYFA grads not pictured in the shoot with Glynn, so that is crazy.
Also I didn't spend 30k on school because I only attended an 8 week workshop where I paid about 5k
With out any real knowledge of the budget for this shoot I know it was more than 2.5k in crew members and rentals. The location was the actors home but there also was a doctors office.

I'm a big believer in your second option that you laid out. Getting on set! be them film schools or be them paid productions. You really get to learn a lot, in fact you need to learn a lot and fast to stay on that set. That education is less theory and much more practical knowledge.

Minor difference but I wasn't a PA I was 2ND Assistant Camera and to dial down 1AC job to turning a knob is really an unfair. All those tech posts on this site about frame rates, data, compression, codecs, lens all this and more are the primary concern of the Camera department.

This production photo was not on the set of a feature film it was a 2min web short. Which the quality was only there because of a competent crew. All of which have made their own 2min shorts that I promise. DP from AFI has festival credits and others on TV more you can watch on netfilx.

I'm not at all attacking this post which I think was very good and laid out the path to a director very accurately but, not everyone is here to be a director. I think to be come a cinematographer you need much more technical knowledge than to be a director. Of course it is nice to have a director who knows about how you need to change the shutter angle when you change frame rate, but it doesn't really matter because that is not the directors job.

April 6, 2011 at 3:38PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Thanks for the input, Nic -- nice to hear from someone on the depicted set!

While a director knowing the relationship of shutter angle to frame rate may not be his or her "job," it's certainly something that's helpful to know. Ultimately the buck stops with the director -- the aesthetics of the film included.

April 6, 2011 at 3:46PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Ryan Koo

I scrolled down and thought "that looks like that director, it is him. Woh I was on that set"

April 6, 2011 at 4:02PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Hey Nic,

Small world! Did we speak on set? That is crazy!

Thanks for your thoughts, I am glad to hear you are working and doing well here in LA. I actually have an interview with Glynn and Freida on set at the medical office here and they discuss the budget, etc:

To respond to your point about the technical aspect of film. Yes, there are things to be learned. But be straight with me, as a 2nd AC, how long did it take you to learn the functions of that job?

My whole point with my site is that there is no position, technical or otherwise, on a film set that warrants the kind of cost or time that schools are charging. I once audited an LA Film School class and listened to a lecture on frame rates. I couldn't believe people were paying $42,000 a year for this. I learned the basics about frame rates in a morning during my AV class in high school. As technology has developed, and everything has gone digital, I picked up magazines and read articles online and learned about 24p, nonlinear editing, etc.

I learned almost NONE of this at NYU Film School. In fact, in school I was one of the students figuring out the new AVID XPress units (back in the 90s!) and showing the professors how to use them.

This information is like learning HTML or Adobe After Effects. It is stuff that can be a little bit challenging to digest at first. You need to be proactive. But most young people are very astute when it comes to technical information, and it is totally possible for a person who is hungry for knowledge to get this stuff down better than someone who has gone to school. It is all stuff you can learn by getting on set. I don't care if you want to be a DP, 2nd AC, Gaffer, Grip, or Sound Mixer.

This isn't to disrespect what you or others have done, it is to inspire people who think they need to school to realize that they don't, and get it into action right away.

I wish you the very best, and thanks for chiming in on the conversation!



April 6, 2011 at 10:51PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


You must also think about the university in general. You do not just learn filmmaking at a 4 year university. You take general education classes, as well as, electives of your choosing. Filmmaking is not all technical, so the more you learn about the world, the more competent filmmaker you become. I believe taking art history, philosophy, psychology, and living the life of a college student is vital to the shaping of a filmmaker.

April 7, 2011 at 4:12AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Colin Oh

I also resent the fact you relegate the job of 1st AC to knob turner.

April 7, 2011 at 4:25AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Colin Oh

Hey Colin,

Thanks for chiming in. This is a common thing for people to say that has no real basis in reality. No filmmakers credits his liberal arts courses as being the inspiration or the education that rounded him out as a great storyteller. What does inspire and influence filmmakers and writers are their life experiences.

The main problem with film school grads is that too often they have nothing to say or write about, because they are just hanging out with other college kids, taking meaningless intellectual classes. I graduated in 3.5 years with honors, wrote many papers, took many test. Like most college grads I remember little of what happened in the classroom.

What I do remember occurred out of the classroom, after school, during my travels, meeting new people well out of my scope of experience when I was in college.


April 8, 2011 at 7:16PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


"I believe taking art history, philosophy, psychology, and living the life of a college student is vital to the shaping of a filmmaker."

Reading any Victor Hugo novel is just as vital! In fact, for $4 it is quite the bargain. Self education can replace much of the academic BS classes. I have taught at three universities and two college prep schools, and I think most of the classes are worthless. I'm only teaching physics because I love teaching and working with kids, it pays extremely well, and I get 4 months off a year to work on my hobbies.

May 28, 2012 at 2:12PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


You buddy probably learnt nothing at film school if you think that all a 1st AC does is turn a knob...hence, the confusion of what does film school really offer me?!
What I personally learnt at AFI could not be taught anywhere else - and just for your information - more than 50% of my AFI classmates have already shot/directed more than 2 features in less than 3 years after graduation. They would have never done this without finishing film school.

April 7, 2011 at 4:26AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Akis K.

Btw, I "am the guy in the picture holding the camera"...But again what do I know? I only have 15 features under my belt in 3 yrs after film school.

April 7, 2011 at 4:32AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Akis K.

Hi Akis,

I am glad to hear that you are doing so well. No need to take this personally.

Let's be real here. 1st AC. Main duty: pulling focus. I'm not out to diss any crew here. Pulling focus isn't easy! I'm just being straight. I know there is more to it than that. But not THAT much. I welcome any 1st AC or other crew to write back to the post and say you need a 1, 2, or 4 year degree and $100,000 in debt to function in that position.

They won't. They may say that they learned the basics in school (for $100,000) but the real learning is done on set, through hard work and being in action. Not school.

As for your success, excellent! Clearly you have worked hard and put together a great reel, built relationships that are getting you more and more work. I respect that you say what you learned at AFI was instrumental to that. I would love to hear specifics. I simply have never found anyone who has graduated school, myself included, that could point to a SPECIFIC thing about school that warranted a $60,000 to $160,000 investment.

Higher education costs have skyrocketed in the last 30 years, and they tend to get a free pass from scrutiny because people say things like "you can't put a price tag on education" or "the things I learned in college I couldn't have learned anywhere else". It's turned into elitism.

I assert that anything you learned in school you could have learned somewhere else. Probably in a different way. Most of the filmmakers and DPs I know, some unknown, some known, have learned everything on the set through trial and error. I'm not just talking about people playing around with HD cameras and After Effects, I even mean people shooting 35mm film, operating cranes, dollies, HMIs, serious equipment both here and in Europe.

My point remains: doesn't it warrant a conversation, an inquiry, when so many of the most talented artists and technicians in this field, from camera operators and special f/x specialists to DPs and screenwriters, were able to achieve success without attaining a degree or paying tuition? Isn't it of value for aspiring filmmakers to hear how it is possible to be successful without necessarily investing all that money and time?

I am glad your friends have been successful as directors. Percentage wise, from all film school grads, they remain the exception to the rule as far as feature directing goes.

Best regards,


April 8, 2011 at 7:11PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


SAT question - 1st AC : knob turner :: ______ : groping balls and saying cough. But who cares about the SATs, you aren't going to college.

April 7, 2011 at 4:57AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Colin Oh

Don't waste your money on film school that teaches you nothing. Waste your money on Seth's website that teaches you nothing. I rather spend $100,000 on a film school than pay for a $47 youtube video. Seth stop taking advantage of poor misguided people and deceive them with empty promises that your system is the better route. I assure to everyone reading: it is NOT.

April 7, 2011 at 5:22AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Colin Oh

Hey Colin,

Listen brother. I respect your opinion. But you don't know what you are talking about. And that isn't an insult, it's just what is so. I mean, you haven't actually checked out my course. For some reason, you seem personally offended by me and what I am offering to people and are talking smack, from an emotional reaction.

This is an email from a recent student of mine in full (he was having a technical issue I helped him with):

"Hey Seth,

Am loving the site. Watched a bunch of the videos after buying in the other day, but now can't login. I tried to generate a new password, but it says my email isn't recognized.

I can provide the Clickbank receipt if you'd like to see it. Let me know if you get it fixed.

In the meantime, I gotta say I dig the site a lot so far. I actually just started film school and a lot of your criticism is spot-on. I'm trying to use the advice on your site, along with the resources of the school, to maximize the time I spend here. I'll let you know how it goes.

Down the road it might be nice to have a modded version of your site or extras or something, for ppl like me who actually made the mistake of entering film school and now want to use your advice to make the most of it. As it is, I'm taking what I can and leaving the rest. Great content though.

It would be awesome to have the vids in ipoddable format so i could listen to them on my train commute.


Answer this: who is taking advantage of "poor, misguided people?" An experienced film school grad who put together a practical course for young filmmakers, designed to address issues and concerns they are actually going to be dealing with after school... or a film school that encourages young people to take on $30,000 to $150,000 in student loans, takes a huge percentage of that as profit, promises them a career in a super competitive field with little practical preparation, then abandons them after graduation?

I'm happy to discuss this. The proof is right above in the Art Institute's own literature. If you really want to spend $90,000 or more to risk a 60% job placement making $31,000 a year, then that is your choice. My goal is to reach people who don't think that is such a smart idea, and show them how they can skip the $90,000 in debt part and go after the job right now, and even move beyond that to making their own movies without spending a ton of money.

Anyone who finds my course to be of no value has 2 months to click a button and instantly get all their money back through my vendor, no questions asked. I'm not doing this to make a ton of money, Colin. I'm just trying to make visible some very valuable information that will make a difference for people who want to make movies.

I wish you the very best in your filmmaking endeavors.


April 8, 2011 at 7:41PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I respect the manner in which you have maintained your poise in replying to these ad hominem attacks. People want to hate for some reason, and it seems so much easier to do it behind a far-away computer. Question: do you offer a money-back guarantee? That could shut some of these people up.

May 28, 2012 at 2:16PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


By the way, I haven't mentioned some other well known filmmakers who have been saying these things much longer than I.

1. Koo has an excellent post listed above, where one of my favorite filmmakers, Jim Jarmusch, shares his thoughts on film school (he went to the grad program at NYU).

You can skip to 1:15 for the juicy stuff. He actually says he was "offended" by what he was taught at NYU and that he had more to unlearn than what he learned.

2. James Cameron, in an obscure interview after he made "Titanic" says "One of the best things that happened to me was that I didn't go to film school." The entire interview can be found here (the part on film school is in the middle of the page):

Fun fact. Cameron's first movie? "Piranha 2: The Spawning". Arguably one of the worst horror movies every made. Have you seen the flying fish? But he rebounded okay. The moral? Just make a movie!

3. PT Anderson shares why he dropped out of NYU after a week here:

PT's story is pretty funny, and quite accurate! I think I may have had the professor he is talking about!


April 8, 2011 at 11:05PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Sorry that last link got cut off: PT Andeson on why he dropped out of school..

April 8, 2011 at 11:07PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Thanks Seth -- I had heard the story of PTA submitting some of Mamet's pages in school and didn't know if it was apocryphal. Great to see him tell it.

April 9, 2011 at 1:00AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Ryan Koo

Your argument is does not work as a whole. It's like saying: if you want to become a billionaire, drop out or don't go to college. It worked for Bill Gates, so it can work for you. Honestly, I could care less if people go to film school or not. I'm not advocating it to anyone that sees no need for it. BUT, when I see someone trying to dissuade people from going to college to sell their product, that is just plain wrong.

April 11, 2011 at 1:24AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Colin Oh

I don't see a difference between your program and a get rich seminar.

April 11, 2011 at 1:37AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Colin Oh

I support Seth and par of that support is this list of some of the greatest directors that never went to film school:

James Cameron
Steven Spielberg
Steven Soderbergh
Paul Thomas Anderson
David Fincher
Alfred Hitchcock
Wes Anderon
Coen Brothers
Christopher Nolan
Quentin Tarantino
Wong Kar-Wai
Stanley Kubrick
Peter Jackson
Guillermo del Toro
Ridley Scott
Jim Jarmusch
Clint Eastwood
Cecil B. DeMille
John Ford
Mel Gibson
Sydney Pollack
Kevin Smith
Robert Rodriguez
Sam Raimi
Spike Jonze
Gaspar Noe
Luis Bunuel
Alejandro Jodorosky
Alfonso Cuaron
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu
Guillermo Arriaga

I guess this list is enough to think about going to film school and pay them that tuiton.

April 23, 2011 at 11:56PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Actually Steven Spielberg did go to film school. He attended Cal State Long Beach. He was there a couple of years until an instructor pissed him off. The guy really was a jerk. He then left CSULB and headed up the 110 frwy to hang out with the guys going to USC Film school, you know, George Lucas and gang. And the rest as they say is history.

Incidentally he made a 35mm color student film while at CSULB. I saw it. It' was a 20 minute short called "Amblin" He liked it so much he named his production company after it...

October 2, 2012 at 10:09PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I live in France, two years ago I moved to Paris to start the program that is about to end in June. In France it's called "BTS Audiovisuel", just a ridiculous 100€ (150$) subscription fee. I looked up for a translation on the web and found that it may be an equivalent to : HNC, advanced vocational diploma, Associate of Science degree or Associate of Arts depending on the english speaking country. Audiovisuel is easy to understand : audio (sound) and visual (video). There are several department to choose from blablabla... I went to the one called "Image" : lights and camera work for TV and cinema. There are about 15 places in France where you can have this training in very small size groups from 8 to 12students. I heard that each year there are two thousands students applying for this training so that is only ~180 students that get to enter this BTS Audiovisuel in the Image departement
I learned that this training in Paris is the "best" one out of the 15 that are in France, that's what is said and heard I am not trying to flatter it.
A BTS is supposed to give a technical training, so it really is a hands on practice (2 days in a 5 days week !)
but there is also a lot of theorical, art related course on art and cinema as well as science lessons.

I read a lot on the Internet about cinematography, especially with DSLRs since I own one, I read articles from the ASC and I realised that... I estimate that I end up with a LOT of important knowledge that other people in my class don't have for two reasons :
-We aren't taught about most of the things I learned
-I seem to be the only one interested enough by what I do at school to continue to learn at home
(Well on that second point, it's also because I prefer to be at the computer than at a party, haha)
These things I read and watch include interviews of DoPs, visual effects, editors, directors, tests of cameras, lenses, lights, DIY tools tutorials, countless threads etc...
I met a guy who is a camera assistant and camera operator who had the same training course 10 years ago and he told me that it only represents 10% of his actual knowledge.
In France, the BTS is the best educational way to get into film on the technical side and it's just after the High School Diploma, which you obtain around 18 years old in France. The other way to get into filmmaking is college, an equivalent to the Community College. The difference is that in France, most of these colleges don't have professional equipment, maybe prosumer or even consumer camcorder, just a few lights, I don't really know but that's how it is said to be : not the right place for technical training.
Just a note, even in the BTS the equipment is not always new, things are changing very fast and are expensive, as of now the BTS where I am still has Sony professional DVCAM camcorders (DSR-400 and 450), don't even think of film cameras...
The main teacher who does the lighting and camera lessons is a former electronic teacher... but we have the chance to have a DoP who also gives lessons.
Just a thought : if you try to suggest to stop school right after the high school diploma, it is almost impossible for parents or students to accept that it is okay to stop there and just go, but I actually guess you don't suggest this.
The next step after this BTS is film school, there are few of them in France and they are very hard to access, same debate here, I heard that some students are bored in this school.

So that was a long comment but I wanted to explain the situation here in France, since everything I read here and on forums mainly comes from the USA though I was glad that you said that one doesn't need to be there to have success.

Side note : I highly respect you and your work as well as the one ran here at but as a strong free-software and free-art believer, I would rather offer what you provide for free and in an open way. I would be happy to participate to a global, free and open effort of the same kind (may be a wiki or something).

April 24, 2011 at 6:50PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


The debate about film school will always exist. And there is no one answer for everyone. Ultimately it comes down to your individual situation.

That said, I choose to go to film school. Looking back on it, going to film school was the right decision for me. I truly believe that I am where I am today because of my training. I graduated in 2008. I landed a sweet full-time AC job about 1.5yrs out of college. I feel blessed to have the job that I have when I have it. But not everyone will have the same experience. I know I am a rare case in my graduating class.

For me it was what and how I learned. How I grew. Non all film programs and school are equal. I love the school that I attended. Thinking about where I would be today without attending film school, I know I would not be in this job. I would not be the same knowledgeable filmmaker my colleagues have come to trust and relay on.

Beside the learning, there is the opportunity to live and breathe filmmaking with hundreds of other people my age that I would have never met without film school.

As they say, its not what you know, its who you know.

May 13, 2011 at 9:36PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Very interesting perspective laying out the costs of school vs how much income you could make, I would include that $35000 a year living in LA is peanuts as well. One of the most expensive places to live in the country.

May 29, 2011 at 8:10AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I think the author is being disingenuous when he claims that he didn't learn anything useful from film school. He obviously learned how to scam people from it. Realized that what they were doing, scamming people out of thousands of dollars by promising them their dream, could be done on a much smaller scale and provide enough profit for a couple of out of work film school graduates. If become a successful director is as easy as Mr. Hymes implies it do be, it is odd not to see his name on any major production or an imdb page with his name on it listing him as the director of countless successful indie films. You see how he boils down the very difficult and labor intensive job of focus pulling to "Turning a knob" that language is designed to sell us on the idea that a career in film is easy and he is just the man to tell us how to break in ( with only 3 easy payments of $19.99).

May 30, 2011 at 12:22AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


You can't go to a workshop then make it into film without spending 90k

July 3, 2011 at 12:52AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I've known quite a few NYU film school graduates from Tisch who have pretty much given up on their dreams and are now wasting away in deep depression in jobs that suck.. One guy I know, who looks like Judd Nelson, doesn't even talk about film school anymore, because he is humiliated. The humiliation comes from the question everyone asks him: When is your movie coming out? In an odd way I can see how going to film school--say twenty years ago--might've been helpful, because the technology wasn't quite there, but as you and many other people have mentioned, if you really have the talent and the drive and good sense of story, you basically can start making films with a HI-Definition camera and a high end Mac tomorrow morning. If someone, on the other hand, has rich parents who don't mind forking over money for film school, then do it. It might work out for you.

July 21, 2011 at 1:22PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


You guys need to understand that to become a director is very difficult these days. I know you may think Nolan and Tarantino are directors without education, but you needs to start thinking that they are very lucky. Lets face it, to become a director the way they did is extremely rare. I believe if you have just finished high school, and you can afford to go to a college or university,then go. The reason why i say this is because even if you dont become a director, you can still work for the film and television industry or even become a teacher. You dont want to concentrate your lives on a dream, that is extremely rare. You need to start calculating your risks, study, read write. Reading and writing expands your imagination, so write scripts while your at uni, collaberate with people who can help you make the film. A good director should be able to write a good script that doesnt involve a high budget at all. Im sorry if i sound like a jerk, but i just would not want anyone to become a beggar on a street because they left their future to chance. If your young and ambitiouse, education and persistence would come first.
If your older and have a family and all that, thats when i would say, yes, don't go to UNI or College.Learn to write a 90 to 100 page script first and perfect it. Then see if you can shoot each scene on a weekend or something.

July 23, 2011 at 10:37AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Typical Film Schools are too expensive without enough payoff. Too many film school graduates can't find work, because they only have amateur short student films to show for themselves! Forget trying to get a job. It's time to start creating your own work.

The American Feature Film Academy is a unique film school, with a Professional Filmmaking Training that only costs $2,500. Get screen credits, experience on professional feature films, network with industry professionals, and start your filmmaking career off right - without all the debt.

August 4, 2011 at 7:04PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Check out The American Feature Film Academy: Professional Film Training for only $2,500.

American Feature Film Academy's website:



August 4, 2011 at 7:06PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


How long did this take you, PE2008? You have wasted your life and devoted your time to convincing people what you "think," however silly it is, is actually true? Anybody who listens to PE2008, also known as the Seth Hymes, will end up being like him, a failure who tries to make up for that failure with a shitty website and product that won't sell, won't get anywhere and will cause everybody in the world to view him as a failure.

August 10, 2011 at 2:32PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Tom Sachs

These comments, I found on yahoo answers are just an example of the many that Seth Hymes (PE2008), has posted. They are terrible, dark, wrong, but more important, false. He is trying to change the minds of many, but he is just a scum bag piece of shit. He is a low life failure who makes up for his failures by posting comments like this, just to promote this shitty website and help his "product" sell in the market (sarcasim).

"Your "friend" is counseling you to a degree that will probably mean unemployment. Don't go to "Film School". It's a waste of time and money."

"Of course, there's an itty-bitty small chance Steven Spielberg won't be calling on you, and you will have to apply your Film Skills on making birthday videos at Taco Bell in Buzzard Breath, Montana, BUT DON'T DWELL ON THAT POSSIBILITY!"

"All Film Schools turn out graduates who have very little chance of establishing careers in the Film Industry.
Many graduates end up living on the streets in a cardboard box, and raiding dumpsters for half-eaten burritos. Do not waste your time and money."

"Very bad idea. Film graduates, whether in Art College or "Film School" are normally unemployed and unemployable. Some live on the streets in a cardboard box. Who is paying for this waste of time?"

August 10, 2011 at 2:43PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Sean Berkowitz


You just left 10 comments in a row using different names (but the same IP). I deleted the other 10. Keep it constructive.

August 10, 2011 at 10:46PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Ryan Koo