July 19, 2015 at 6:35PM, Edited July 19, 6:36PM


Columbia College Chicago Film School?

Very strongly considering attending to get a BA in film Studies(there is no specialization for a BA right?) or BFA in editing or cinematography. I'm 24 and I received my Associates 2-3 years back at a community college but never figured out what to pursue. I now know there is nothing in the world I love more than movies. But that is simply from my vast experience of viewing them. Maybe I should just continue doing so? I have 0 filmmaking experience (besides a 12 class workshop and PAing on the set of a short film). I also have 0 photography experience. I basically have snapchat experience. But the idea of a cinematography or editing career appeals to me so much.

So yea..just give it to me straight haha. With my lack of experience, can I succeed at one of the most populated film schools in America? And I take it having a 2 hour commute to the school would make it more difficult to be successful? I'd be willing to find housing nearby though.
Thoughts? Advice? Tips?
I really don't know what career to pursue besides this...the medical field in a subject area I'm rather weak in and who knows if I'll enjoy?



bueller? =D

July 20, 2015 at 3:52PM, Edited July 20, 3:52PM

tom k
Film Student

Sorry to say, film school won't make you a good filmmaker by itself. Just start making films. Buy the gear, write the scripts, learn the software. If you still absolutely love it after that, consider film school. You may want to pursue film, but without an official degree (which most of us are doing...)

I just may have saved you $50k a year.

July 21, 2015 at 8:15AM, Edited July 21, 8:15AM

Jordan Mederich
Documentarian / Filmmaker

Sure you can be successful in film school. Just do your assignments and get good grades. There you have it: success. Don't want to put words in your mouth, but I think you might mean can you be successful as a film maker. The best advice I have is what was said to me when I was 23. "If you want to make someone else's movies, go to film school or work as a PA. But if you want to make your own movies, buy some equipment and start shooting. Really depends on what your film making goals are.

July 21, 2015 at 2:25PM

Don Way
Writer/Director of Photography

I forget who originally said it, but some of the best advice I've heard is: try to imagine yourself doing something besides filmmaking as a career. If you can, and you think it would make you happy, then don't go into film.

The point of course is; filmmaking, while potentially incredibly rewarding on many levels, is equally incredibly difficult, not only to succeed in but even just to survive.

You might love movies (who doesn't?) but more likely than not you won't be working on the type of movies you love (at least not at first). Most likely you'll be shooting/editing/PAing on whatever gigs you can get. It can be a real grind at times. There's several ceilings to break through and each one comes with its own unique challenges. There's a big difference between $1k and $10k projects, $10k and $100k, and $100k and $1M. And the movies you love and want to make, well most likely they're in a league of their own.

That being said, if you're passionate and motivated, then you should give it a go, but I would not recommend film school. You're 24, educated and (at least subconsciously) understand the language of cinema. All you have to do is start producing content. One great part about filmmaking today is that it's easily accessible, so get out there and start making movies. Create somethings on your own and with a team. Volunteer and get as much experience as you can. AND READ! Read scripts, read fiction, read educational material. So many great books out there (def. a few lists on these boards and site, just use the search) and so many more incredible resources scattered around the web. Absorb everything you can but be prepared to fail miserably. Try to understand why you failed, pick up the camera/slate/mouse/whatever and try again. And again.

July 22, 2015 at 2:02AM

John Morse
Producer + Director

I've become more and more convinced over the past few weeks that film school is not the best route. Thanks for the advice. I think what I'll do is go to school for another area while teaching myself about filmmaking/working on my own projects. But just the idea of doing that, even right now I'm so paranoid about getting the shots to look good. Should I be? Should I shoot and come back here for a review and suggestions? Is there a beginner's handbook?

July 22, 2015 at 5:41AM, Edited July 22, 5:41AM

tom k
Film Student

That paranoia is just doubt and fear and it happens to everyone on all levels.

Yes, you should go shoot but no, you shouldn't bring it back here. This site is filled with armchair filmmakers and I rarely see any good advice/critiques/discussions from more than a handful of users. Try reddit.com/r/filmmakers - they have verified pros, helpful critiques and discussions and Mega Thread Mondays, where there are no stupid questions.

For a list of great books just search this site, the boards, r/filmmakers and amazon.

John Morse

July 22, 2015 at 2:12PM

Start small, a DLSR will teach you both taking still photos and shooting video but even as something as a cellphone will help too. For editing IMove is good to learn on but Final Cut Pro or Premiere is better, although the learning curve is more steep.

I wouldn't be worried about trying to get the shots to look good just yet until you know what your doing.

July 22, 2015 at 9:51AM


Everyone's path is different. Generally the most benefit derived from film school is relationships you can make, so if you have a lousy commute you'll have a real difficult time participating in others' productions as well as your own. Check Columbia out THOROUGHLY: when I went there (some time ago) access to equipment/labs was very limited. Do your homework on any school, especially jobs placement rates after graduation as all film schools seem to tout their alumni already in the business.
If I had it to do all over again I'd take my youthful enthusiasm,move straight to LA, get a job at the bottom of the business and make relationships and work my way up that way. Fortunately today, moving to LA isn't really necessary anymore: Chicago, New York, Austin, Atlanta, etc.

July 22, 2015 at 12:37PM


Dan Rybicky is a tenured professor at Columbia in the screenwriting department, and is one of the best teachers I've ever had. I recommend emailing him. He knows that film school isn't for everyone and will give it to you straight. PM me at mcshyd at gmail and I'll send you his contact info.

July 23, 2015 at 10:58AM

Ross Thomas

As someone who actually attended Columbia College and received a bachelors in Film Editing, I absolutely regret it. Given, I was technically proficient in editing and basic camera work prior to attending the college, I was sucked into the pressure of needing a degree to get any decent job. The opposite could not be more true. It's all recommendations, and your portfolio. Oh, and doing a lot of stuff for free the first time around so people will give you a chance.

Making connections was probably the best part of the college, but not worth $20k a year ($20k in loans now). You're better off doing what everyone else is suggesting, learn your craft, generally at first and then specializing when you find your niche and then just creating and creating. Learn from your mistakes and continuously improve and try new things. If you want to make connections with other film students and indie projects, make the commute to the film building every other week and check out the events posted all over the many bulletin boards.

July 23, 2015 at 10:59AM, Edited July 23, 11:00AM

Brandan Gajic
Cinematographer / Editor

I just posted something to another question that might be useful for you… http://nofilmschool.com/boards/questions/saved-some-money-looking-film-e...

July 23, 2015 at 11:56AM

Jaan Shenberger
designer/animator & live-action director/DP

Film Schools are bad environments to learn the craft of filmmaking. Despite bad tuition, many programs cater to newbies and start everything off with remedial coursework you will certainly regret taking as soon as you start. And if you're thinking there's access to equipment, think again. Film Schools get approval for equipment acquisition after they receive their budget from the University as a whole. This means that they will sometimes market that they can give all sorts of gear to anyone anytime, but that is simply not true. I attended a school in Chicago that marketed that students would be able to use the latest and greatest, but the obstacles to use them once you are in the system was overwhelming. Also, it is important to note that filmmaking isn't taught and, if you're learning to create in a university program, you'll only learn to don dated techniques that simply are not true. Like any art form, Cinema is only limited by what you can imagine and translate to the screen. If you want to be a run-of-the-mill Spielberg hack, you can go to film school, but I guarantee you won't be able to separate yourself from anyone else learning the same techniques elsewhere. Oh, and as for connections, most film students are broke and hoping to make connections too, so those are useless (though you can form some pretty cool teams to tackle some projects). And teachers? Nope, most of them went into academia because they didn't get success in the actual industry. Besides such, making any connection in the industry is only as good as developing a unique talent and voice that viewers and audiences can't turn away from. Your "connection" is going to view you as an investment he or she is forwarding for your talent. If you have no talent because you've been banking on the connection, then the whole ordeal is pointless! To put it bluntly, screw film school, immerse yourself in your craft, SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT (and once you're too tired to shoot, SHOOT AGAIN), then curate what you shoot to the community you are in (seriously, Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, Youtube are all your best friends). Don't waste $50,000 a year to have a dry institution teach you to make things badly.

September 26, 2016 at 4:15PM


I wanna be at Chicago Film School

December 31, 2019 at 1:26AM


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