The term film school is used to describe any educational institution dedicated to teaching aspects of filmmaking, including such subjects as film production, film theory, digital media production, and screenwriting. Film history courses and hands-on technical training are usually incorporated into most film school curricula. Technical training may include instruction in the use and operation of cameras, lighting equipment, film or video editing equipment and software, and other relevant equipment. Film schools may also include courses and training in such subjects as television production, broadcasting, audio engineering, and animation.
Many film schools still teach students how to use actual film in their productions, although the incorporation of digital media in film school curricula has risen drastically in recent years. Some schools offer only digital filmmaking courses, eschewing instruction in the medium of film altogether. The use of digital cameras and digital media is significantly less expensive than film cameras and film stock, and allows a film school or department to offer more equipment for students with which to learn and use for their projects. In addition, digital media (such as DVD) is often used for in-class screenings.
Film schools may be part of an existing public or private college or university, or a privately owned institution. Depending on whether the curriculum of a film school meets its state's academic requirements for the conferral of a degree, completion of studies in a film school may culminate in an undergraduate or graduate degree, or a certificate of completion.
Professionals in the film industry hold a variety of opinions on the relevance of a degree in film in relation to the ability to find work and succeed in the field. As in many professions in the arts, some feel that talent cannot be taught. With respect to filmmaking, others feel that learning techniques and understanding the business is crucial to one's success as a filmmaker.
Those who argue against the necessity of film school cite the high cost of such an education as prohibitive and that an aspiring filmmaker's money would be better spent on the actual making of a film, the experience of which would offer a more practical hands-on education. Film school proponents argue that a formal education allows for a more rounded theoretical understanding of techniques artistic approaches, and offers the opportunity to gain from the knowledge and experience of professional instructors who work or have worked in the industry. Often cited as another benefit of film school are the numerous opportunities made available to students to work as an intern for filmmakers or in related businesses, such as post-production editing facilities, and to network with others interested in filmmaking who may be in a position to collaborate with the student on a project or eventually offer work in the industry. Most film schools will hold a festival, or showcase, of student works at the end of a semester or school year. The more prestigious institutions often invite industry executives and producers to attend. However, ambitious individuals not in film school can also pursue such opportunities on their own through cold-calling, joining film industry-related organizations such as IFP, or submitting their work to independent film festivals.
The rise and popularity of independent filmmaking and digital video have influenced this debate, as anyone with a digital camera can shoot their own (digital) film with little formal knowledge of the industry and succeed or establish a following by making it available for viewing or publicizing it on the internet.
Directors who have attended and earned degrees from film schools include Francis Ford Coppola (UCLA Film School, MFA film directing), Martin Scorsese (NYU Film School, MFA film directing), and George Lucas (USC Film School, BA film directing). Others, such as Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock had no formal college film training at all. Film director Werner Herzog has been quite vocal in arguing against flm school.
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