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What are the alternatives to film school and film studies? Avery T. Phillips gives her tips on continuing education for filmmakers.

Photo credit: Pixabay

You don’t always have to go to film school to further your passion for filmmaking. As you know, there are so many nuances in film that can lead you down the path you’re truly meant to be on. It’s not always about who you know. It’s not always about how to use the right equipment because you can always learn it along the way.

If you can tell a compelling story you’re on the right path. From continuing education in military history to specializing in mass communications, filmmakers may want to consider how furthering their education could help inform their film production efforts.

There are many ways to approach filmmaking depending on where you want to go and what you want to do. Don’t underestimate the value of getting a good education, however. Let’s take a look at how to go about developing skills through continuing education.


History Buffs

Award-winning historian Antony Beevor can’t stomach the way war movies are portrayed on film, and his wife won’t watch war movies with him anymore because he’s so critical.

“This is because I cannot stop grinding my teeth with annoyance at major historical mistakes, or harrumphing over errors of period detail,” Beevor wrote in The Guardian. “She only made an exception when Valkyrie came out, with Tom Cruise playing Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg.”

“Such a folly of miscasting was bound to be a hoot, and we were not disappointed, especially when Cruise saluted in that downward cutaway style as if he were still in Top Gun. But I was soon grinding away again when the director and screenwriter felt compelled to improve on history, by making it look as if the 20 July plot to blow up Hitler had still very nearly succeeded,” he wrote.

If you can relate to his disgruntlement and are interested in film, becoming a military historian may be the career path for you! With a master’s you’ll be able to “hone a military historian’s ability to analyze historical conflicts and expose them to many of the more complex confrontations that have occurred throughout history,” according to Norwich University.

Photo credit: Pixabay

If working for the government or in academia don’t sound like great options for you, try to become a consultant on a movie. Job requirement: Must love history. Or you could always go into the CIA as an analyst.


Mass Communications

Mass communications is a diverse field of study that prepares students for a wide range of careers in media — including journalism, marketing, public relations, current affairs, radio, film, television and social media — and lies on the “bedrock of contemporary communications theory.”

For example, if you can see how a journalist puts together a piece and interviews subjects, as well as how to edit and shoot a piece, you’re also learning how to let an audience make up their own minds about their connection to the people/characters involved. This carries over into the filmmaking realm.

Mass communications could be the link that prepares one for a career in film. Having a vast knowledge base can help you narrow your focus into film while also being well versed in fields of study that give you a broader view of media. It’s good to have versatile skills that prepare you for the real world of film.

If you aren’t sure where you want to direct your attention, pursue a degree in mass communications with a focus on film that teaches you how to shoot and edit video with different types of equipment and software. You’ll figure out rather quickly whether you want to pursue filmmaking. You can even pursue a mass communications master’s degree online if you don’t want to quit your day job but want to go the postgraduate route.

Did you know that film director Spike Lee has a Bachelor’s in Mass Communications from Morehouse College and a Master’s in Film and Television from New York University?


Go to an Affordable Small School

Yes, the school of hard knocks is often the most valuable for many, including filmmakers. But there are still many who want to get some type of broad-reaching degree even if it’s outside of film school. People in film come from all walks of life.

A public school that offers film studies and in-state tuition may be a good starting place. Or you could attend a small liberal arts college and major in a subject that you can probably apply to film work.

For example, with a major in psychology you’d really understand what makes audiences tick and what films elicit a reaction in people. There’s a reason some kids get scared watching a children’s movie where a favorite Disney character gets killed or chased by monsters.

Photo credit: Pixabay

“Understandably, for these children, movies are just no fun to watch,” according to KinderCare Learning Centers. “In fact they’re pretty stressful. So why on earth do kids’ movies feature this kind of scary content? Well, good versus evil is a plot line as old as time, for one. And evil isn’t all bad.”

By watching a disturbing children’s film, kids start to learn that bad things do happen in life and as they grow older they may be be able to handle a film that’s more geared toward adults.

No matter what you choose to get a degree in, you can always put your skills to good use as a filmmaker.

Most filmmakers don’t make tons of money out of the gate, so it doesn’t make sense to spend tens of thousands of dollars on college, unless you want to be in debt forever or want to be a doctor or in some other specialized field.

Finding people who share your passion often comes from a college experience. Talent, hard work and true filmmaking chops with the ability to tell a good story are even more important. Ask yourself what turns your crank? Do that.


Avery T. Phillips

Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.

Posted on Jul 21, 2018

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