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Is film school worth the time and money? Hear from two experienced filmmakers, one who went to film school and one who started his own business instead.

Words by Dominic Gould

Photography by Kyle Loftus

Like with all forms of formal education, some people will tell you their time at film school was invaluable and changed their life, while others will tell you theirs was a waste of time. Here are all the factors to consider, along with advice from two successful filmmakers, one who graduated film school and another who used the money to invest in gear to kickstart his own business.

“It’s a great place to build your abilities and define your style and taste.”

Foundations

One reason to go to film school is to build your skills. If you’re just starting out, it’s a great idea to study if your goal is to learn the basics. You’ll be learning about film history and how to make videos almost every day for up to 3 years. It’s a great place to build your abilities and define your style and taste, but it won’t guarantee you a high-flying career in Hollywood…

“Surrounding yourself with people who want to make films and have the resources to do so, that’s the most important thing.”

Networking

Networking is a huge part of the industry. It’s essential when you’re trying to get your work out there and find clients. If you go to film school, you’ll be surrounded everyday with like-minded people. If you can take advantage of the situation and stay in touch with your classmates, you might find yourself some work in the future. You’ll also get valuable help from peers on projects during your course, which will likely lead to a better body of work once you graduate.

Dane Holroyd is a Bond University film school Alumni. He now lives in Los Angeles working for a film production company and just released a huge video campaign for Motorola’s latest phone. I spoke briefly with him about whether or not he valued his time at university. Essentially, Dane kept coming back to the fact that, “if you’re motivated and put in the work, it doesn’t matter whether you’re at film school or not.” He said, “the main benefit of going to uni was being around people like me and getting their help on work that I could use for my portfolio which has gotten me jobs over here in the states.

Dane also said “If you get an internship at an agency instead of going to university it’s essentially the same thing. Just surrounding yourself with people who want to make films and have the resources to do so – that’s the most important thing.”

“Creativity can’t be taught to you, it has to come from you and you alone.”

Price

Another factor to consider is the cost of a university course. If you feel the topics covered in the course will be helpful for you and you have the resources and access to study, then go for it. If you can’t afford to go though, it’s not the end of the world. After all, creativity can’t be taught to you, it has to come from you and you alone. Film school courses in Australia range from $12,000 to $100,000. With that kind of money, you could make a significant investment in equipment which would help you push your content to the next level and get more clients.

Josh Walsh is the director of Eastmount Studios, based on the Gold Coast. He’s a talented young filmmaker and makes all kinds of cinematic commercial videos and narrative short films. He, unlike Dane, didn’t have any formal study in filmmaking. He pretty much just put his head down and worked hard on his own to save for the gear he needed and produce the results he wanted. In the three years he would’ve spent at university studying, Josh has been able to build his business and gain an array of regular clients, including Mercedes-Benz and the cult fashion brand Contra, which he produced the below video for.

“What employers and clients want to see is your work and your résumé.”

Career Outcomes

If you do go to film school, are you guaranteed a job the day after graduation? Unfortunately, no. Career outcomes in creative courses are significantly lower than other courses offered by the same institutions. And in the film industry, a degree isn’t the most important aspect of an application.

Most of what employers and clients want to see is your work and your résumé. They want to see who you’ve worked for, who you’ve worked with, and the final results you made. Film school isn’t crucial for any of these things but can definitely push you in the right direction.

Whether you put your money toward an education or toward an arsenal of gear to do the job, you need to put in the hours in the edit suite and consistently show the world what you can do.

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Dominic Gould

Dominic Gould is a director, photographer and cinematographer from the Gold Coast, Australia. He mainly dabbles in music & documentary work. He has a huge appetite for content creation as well as servo pies, Peep Show and talking in third person.