Top 10 Best Film Schools for Aspiring Filmmakers

Top 10 Best Film Schools for Aspiring Filmmakers

Lights, camera, action! If you've always pictured yourself in the glamorous world of filmmaking, no one can blame you. It's a common aspiration. However, it takes more than a desire to live a snazzy Hollywood lifestyle to get there. If you want to be a part of the filmmaking world, you need to develop filmmaking skills. It's true that some people get to this point without a formal education, but for the average person, it helps to have gone to one of the best film schools if you are trying to get into the filmmaking industry.

Of course, the industry is incredibly competitive. As such, no matter how much formal education you have, there is no guarantee that you will make it big or make it at all. Just like anything else, though, you will never know until you try. Learning about the best film schools available is the first step.

​Factors to Consider When Choosing a Film School

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There are many factors that you should keep in mind when choosing from among the best film schools. These have to do with the quality of education you will receive and potential opportunities after graduation.


Ideally, you will want to go to a school with a strong program in your particular area of focus. Your true passion could lie in directing, or you could be more interested in screenwriting. Maybe you would like a more well-rounded curriculum so that you can develop skills in producing as well. You should decide what is most important to you. Then, you should make sure that the school of your choice offers an active program in that area.


You should also consider location. Many aspiring filmmakers would prefer to be as close to Hollywood as possible. After all, here, they would have potential opportunities to work on projects in Hollywood. New York and Vancouver are other centers when it comes to making movies. With digital technology as advanced as it is, you can make movies from any location.

People and opportunities

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Also important is who is a part of the faculty. It would be excellent to be able to work with faculty members who have connections within the filmmaking industry. Famous alumni are also a plus; it may not be fair, but once you graduate, people in the industry will likely see you as more credible if you went to the same school as someone famous. You should also look into whether or not you will have the opportunity to make a film while in school. At some schools, it is a requirement for graduation, while at others, you will likely not have the opportunity unless you find an outside internship. Another factor to consider is what sorts of career services programs are available, as well as any internship programs that the school offers.

​How We Picked The Best Film Schools

We examined data on the handful of film schools that are considered to be top tier. Included on this list were schools that appeared on multiple lists on the internet. We also ensured that the list included schools with a diverse set of strengths and weaknesses. This way, there would be schools on the list that would appeal to students of different interests in the world of filmmaking.

​Expected Tuition Costs

The schools on this list vary widely in terms of tuition costs. The range is from approximately $40,000 to just over $70,000 for a four-year program. However, in the case of public universities, the cost is substantially less for in-state students. It can go down as far as approximately $15,000. Considering the average costs, attending one of these top film schools can be much more expensive than attending a mid-tier school. The average for the mid-tier schools falls into the lower end of the range for the best film schools, at approximately $50,000.

The 10 Best Film Schools

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The following is a list of 10 of the best film schools that are available. All of these schools have different areas of focus and are known for different amenities. However, any school on this list will likely provide adequate preparation for a student who aspires to become a part of the filmmaking industry.

1. University of Southern California

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The University of Southern California, commonly known as USC, has a School of Cinematic Arts that is consistently ranked No. 1 in the United States. This school has a huge number of connections to the filmmaking industry. In fact, there is even a Hollywood Walk of Fame star right in front of the school. Because it's in Los Angeles, students have the best internship opportunities, as well as opportunities to attend a multitude of industry events. Students have opportunities to participate in off-campus internships with reputable organizations in the industry, such as Pixar, throughout the school year.

USC offers programs available for filmmakers interested in all sorts of categories. These include production, screenwriting, critical studies, interactive media, animation, and more. This school is in tune with the changing media in films. As such, it offers classes that educate students on media forms such as virtual reality and web series. This school is also well known for its world-class faculty. Many of these faculty have a multitude of connections in the industry that can help jumpstart the careers of their students upon graduation. However, you need to consider that it is extremely competitive. USC only accepts 3 percent of applicants.

2. University of California -- Los Angeles

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The University of California -- Los Angeles, known to most people as UCLA, also has an excellent film school. The location makes it a prime candidate for a spot on the list of best film schools. Multiple students at the school have had their homework assignments turn into cinematic works of art enjoyed around the world. The school offers cutting-edge facilities, including an Oculus NextGen VR lab. There are plenty of full-ride graduate scholarships available to promising students, as well as a curriculum that is continuously funded by generous donors. The school has been around for more than six decades, and it was the first to combine television, film, and theater programs. UCLA also offers excellent non-degree programs in the art of film. Juniors and seniors in the UCLA film program have the opportunity to take internships that last throughout the year.

3. American Film Institute (AFI)

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Located in Los Angeles, California, the American Film Institute, or AFI, is unlikely to be absent from any list of the best film schools. It is a true film conservatory, so students should be aware that they will not have the typical college experience here. There are no other general education requirements outside of film. The institution offers certificates to those who do not have undergraduate degrees, as well as MFAs to those who already have college degrees. AFI is known as one of the first schools to acknowledge the need for diversity in film, starting a free directing workshop exclusively for women in 1974.

The programs at the school are extremely specialized, arguably more so than any of the other schools on this list. Students can graduate with degrees that specifically focus on cinematography, directing, editing, production design, producing, and screenwriting. AFI focuses on helping students make their own films rather than providing internship opportunities. Individuals who attend this institution have the opportunity to make multiple films. They also have excellent opportunities for exposure, such as the prestigious AFI Film Festival.

4. California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

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The California Institute of the Arts, or CalArts, has the distinction of having been founded by Walt Disney. This institute offers a Film and Video degree and a very well-recognized MFA in film directing. However, it has achieved recognition primarily for its animation programs. As such, the majority of famous alumni are noted animators, including Pete Docter (director of "Inside Out") and Chris Buck (co-director of "Frozen"). It offers two animation degrees: Experimental Animation and Character Animation. CalArts was the first institution in the US that provides degrees of higher learning to allow students to concentrate on the visual and performing arts specifically. It is also one of the rare film schools in the country that allows students to retain complete copyright and control over their own work.

The school is about 45 minutes outside of Los Angeles. As such, students usually do not take internships during the school year. However, the school does what it can to give students course credit for internships that they do either during the year or the summer. Students here have excellent opportunities to develop practical and technical skills in a workshop environment. CalArts also emphasizes new technological media in film and teaches students how to use these new technologies.

5. NYU Tisch School of the Arts

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The film school at New York University is commonly known as the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. This school provides a multitude of programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels in television, film, cinema, design, and acting. Not only is there an emphasis on filmmaking, but also film analysis. Doctoral candidates at the research institution have the opportunity to explore a variety of topics, including cultural influences on film of all genres. The school offers three degrees: Dramatic Writing, Cinema Studies, and Film and Television.

People in film circles often state the following: "If you want to make a living, go to USC; if you want to make art, go to NYU.” The reason for this is that Los Angeles is the center of commercial television and film, while New York is the center of independent filmmaking. Many alumni focus on independent films. However, the location does offer students opportunities for year-round internships that can place them in the limelight, such as Fox Searchlight and "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."

6. Columbia University

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Located in New York, Columbia University has a lot to offer in many areas of academia. Film is no exception, as it is home to one of the best film schools. It is constantly adapting and expanding, with amenities such as a growing digital storytelling laboratory. Additionally, the new Lenfest Center for the Arts boasts a brand new postproduction center and a state-of-the-art theater with 150 seats. Students have the chance here to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in film and media studies. Its MFA programs in creative producing and directing-screenwriting have received many accolades within the industry. Many alumni have achieved distinction at film festivals such as Cannes, Sundance, Berlin, Venice, and the Academy Awards.

7. Columbia College

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Not to be mistaken for Columbia University, Columbia College in Chicago has a prestigious film program all its own. The school boasts a 35,500-square-foot media production center, as well as a 40-foot green screen. Students can also benefit from the three multi-camera, high-definition studios on campus. Additionally, even though Chicago is not Los Angeles or New York, it is still a somewhat prominent city in the filmmaking industry. Faculty members here encourage students to use the Windy City as a backdrop for their projects, and they have ample networking opportunities as well. Students have multiple options in terms of areas of focus. Interdisciplinary documentary students have the chance to practice and learn documentary filmmaking roles, such as photography, voice acting, writing, and directing. Students in television arts and cinema will focus more on visual effects, editing, sound, cinematography, and mobile/web-based media.

Columbia College offers a program where students get to spend a semester in Los Angeles. Additionally, there are opportunities to spend time working overseas in cities like Beijing. In 2011, Columbia College collaborated with YouTube to create the first YouTube Creator Institute to teach students about digital media and promotion. Because of everything that this school has to offer, you should consider it in your review of the best film schools.

​8. Loyola Marymount University

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Loyola Marymount University, known as LMU, has a School of Film and Television that makes it possible for students to get various specialized degrees. These include degrees in Animation, Production, Film Studies, Screenwriting, and Recording Arts. Not many schools offer Recording Arts degrees. This makes this school a prime option for students who are interested in becoming sound designers, sound editors, or sound mixers. Additionally, they have recently incorporated the International Documentary Production minor into their list of options. This teaches students who are interested in social justice to promote their causes through films.

LMU is a great school when it comes to internship opportunities. It gives its students the chance to work with huge names in the industry. These include Disney, Paramount, NBCUniversal, and Sony. The campus boasts three flexible studios that have green screen backdrops, as well as a stand-alone ADR/Foley stage and eight Avid editing rooms.

9. Wesleyan University

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Wesleyan University is located in Middletown, Connecticut. Even though this is not considered a notable city in terms of filmmaking, this school has many alumni that have established themselves in the industry. These include Michael Bay and Joss Whedon. This school is known for its emphasis on film studies. This has helped many of its students achieve a thorough understanding of film and its driving mechanisms. Ultimately, students who can study here don't just make films, but films that have a real effect on audiences. The education provided here gives them an enhanced understanding of the medium. Additionally, this school is known for its cinema archives, which is home to documents by notable figures in the industry. These include Frank Capra and Martin Scorsese. It can definitely be considered one of the best film schools that is available to students interested in the industry.

​10. Ringling College of Art and Design

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Ringling College of Art and Design, located in Sarasota, Florida, has gained recognition in recent years and is quickly achieving its ranks among the best film schools in the United States. They offer a Bachelors of Fine Arts in a variety of areas. These include film, creative writing, computer animation, game art, illustration, graphic design, photography/digital imaging, and motion design. Ringling is quickly becoming a top choice for those who have an interest in becoming animators. In fact, there were 17 alumni of this school in the production of the hit film, "Coco."

​Which of the Best Film Schools Is Best for You?

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​After going through this list, you may be wondering which of the best film schools is best for you. The truth is that that is completely up to you. You need to decide which of these schools is going to nurture your aspirations best and potentially lead to your desired career. Many of the schools on this list are close to Hollywood, which is an advantage in and of itself. Being in close proximity to the movie-making capital of the world opens many doors. It increases the likelihood that you can obtain a Hollywood internship, network with people in Hollywood, and much more.

However, if the school with the program that has captured your attention is in another state, you should not dismiss it automatically. At the end of the day, it is your resourcefulness, motivation, and talent that will determine your success no matter where you are.

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