THR: The 25 Best Film Schools Rankings

August 1st, 2011 by
Via THR, here are their list of the top 10 best film schools worldwide:

1. American Film Institute
2. University of Southern California
3. Beijing Film Academy
4. New York University Tisch School of the Arts
5. University of California Los Angeles
6. California Institute of the Arts
7. The Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague
8. Columbia University School of the Arts
9. Wesleyan University
10. The National Film and Television School

It’s an informative article with a summary of each school, notable alumni, and importantly tuition.

If the latter gives you pause, here’s a free approach: Deep Focus: The Go Into The Story Movies Project. Under your own tutelage, you can study:


Scripts and Screenwriting

Film Analysis and Criticism


The Evolution of Filmmaking

There’s even a short version of the program.

All free. Many of the resources available online.

Of course, if you really want to boil down an alternative film school education, you can do this [say it with me]:

Read scripts.
Watch movies.
Write pages.

So question on the table: Is a film school education worth the time and money?

For more of the Hollywood Reporter article and the rest of the top 25, go here.

UPDATE: In comments, Alex offers a terrific piece of advice about filmmaking:

i really wish people would focus on how broad an education they can get, and how many interests they can cultivate, rather than which vocational school to pick from. because ultimately, what you have to say, “your voice,” will not come from any school, but will come from being an interesting, active, curious person.

Each one of us should print this out and tape it on our foreheads. Not only about screenwriting, acting, directing, but also about life in general.

Thanks, Alex, for that insight.

Comment Archive

10 thoughts on “THR: The 25 Best Film Schools Rankings

  1. Peter Dwight says:

    Currently part way through my third year at the RWWI (Read scripts, Watch movies, Write pages Institute). It fits my schedule and my current pay grade. The teachers are excellent and always available!!

  2. Alex says:

    i had a great time at film school, but i really wish people would focus on how broad an education they can get, and how many interests they can cultivate, rather than which vocational school to pick from. because ultimately, what you have to say, "your voice," will not come from any school, but will come from being an interesting, active, curious person.

  3. Scott says:

    @Alex: That is simply one of the best pieces of advice like… ever. And I'm updating the OP with it, thanks.

  4. Jim Endecott says:

    Just finished the three week intensive course from TheFilmSchool in Seattle. Had a blast. Focuses almost exclusively on story telling.

    I recommend it for those who want to get a great foundation in short amount of time.

    Stewart Stern (Rebel Without a Cause) is an absolute joy to be in the room with.


  5. Matt Bird says:

    Absolutely not. Do not go to film school. Spend that money reading every book, listening to every commentary, entering every contest, learning every computer program, and putting lots of HD home movies on YouTube.

    I went to one of those top ten film schools listed above and the program was run like a summer camp, with no curriculum and no standards. Most of what I learned was just wrong, and I've spent my time ever since re-educating myself to get rid of the bad habits I picked up there. Meanwhile, I've got 150K in crushing, high-interest, un-refinancable, un-escapable debt.

  6. Scott says:

    @Matt: Sorry to hear that. Yours is a cautionary tale. And sadly I'm hearing from more people who have had a similar experience as you. Surprising to hear how students can go to these top notch schools, yet there is no coherence to what they teach in terms of screenwriting or filmmaking. Students left to find their way among a variety of voices which can lead to a mishmash of ideas. Not to say schools should seek to have students all in lock-step. But the apparent lack of thought toward an overall take on the crafts in some of these schools, from what I'm hearing, is pretty shocking.

  7. Atlanta says:

    @Alex, spot on re "active, curious."

    Drive (willing to work) and curiosity (willing to learn), those two can make formal school unnecessary. I did design school, and I've hired talented designers who didn't go to school. It's all about the work. If you can do good work, you didn't need formal school. Drive and curiosity, and smart people to learn from, that's all you need, and those people can be online (yay Screenwriter Master Class! we are so damn lucky to have that resource).

    And you can't separate value of the school from the professors, most especially in creative fields. Considered grad art school but was turned off by the professors, all self-indentified with a famous artist, and if you liked that direction, you were golden, but if you wanted to explore and learn everything, what made art tick, not the place to do that. So I turned to other places to learn.

    Think about your favorite class, bet you loved the professor and really learned. We got that with Scott, we are lucky.

  8. daveed says:

    I'm surprised there are no top schools listed from India, the UK, or elsewhere besides the US (and outlier Beijing).

  9. Ferdinand says:

    I don't think you need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to go to film school, however I do think people need some kind of formal education, whether it's online courses/junior college/vocational, etc. There are many filmmakers out there who just don't know the craft and don't take time to study the craft.
    The best way to learn, like all other industries is to actually do it. But putting a bunch of stuff on youtube doesn't help you learn the right way. I'm tired of seeing videos/film with bad coverage, bad stories, and bad editing.

    The best approach is work in a professional setting. Be a PA on a professional set or intern at a studio, local TV station, post-prod house, or something related in the industry, etc.
    I've learned so many things just by being on a set.
    And complement your skills by taking classes/reading books, etc in a more cost effective way. One other thing is to join filmmaking clubs/meetup groups. There are some talented people in these groups who can help you. Help them and they will help you.

  10. I’m starting at Chapman in the Fall and can’t wait. The school has amazing facilities and resources and I am really looking forward to getting my MFA in directing. @Matt The 150k in debt blows and should be a cautionary tale for anyone considering film education…this is how I went about it and I would suggest everyone try to do something similar maybe.

    I went to a good, but very cheap state school in Missouri for undergrad, I received scholarships, worked, and came out with little debt. I studied Philosophy, Creative Writing, and Psychology of Religion. Independently I studied film, particularly production and some screen-writing. I made five short films while in undergrad, and worked while in school producing local commercials and some political videos for think-tanks.

    After graduating, I was able to find work as a freelance video producer and eventually was hired by a boutique agency. I worked for three years, saved money, wrote a feature screenplay and a television show. The videos I produced won awards, took me around the world, and have generated over 4 million views on YouTube.

    The two main reasons I was able to do this was A. I had little debt so I was able to take riskier jobs coming out of school, and B. I received a strong liberal-arts education (not in film) and was thus a well-rounded person coming out of school. I can honestly say that 95% of the film jobs I had coming out of school, I got because I had knowledge about different things completely unrelated to film, but related to the subject matter.

    Bottom-line in my opinion, studied interesting things in undergrad and become an interesting person with a “voice.”

    Go to a graduate film program in California for networking and to practice refining your craft.

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