Movies uniquely embellish all art forms and put them together to tell a story. They also uniquely exist as an artistic outlet that everyone likes in one way or another. They carry so much importance to tell stories that move us or bring us comfort. But those stunningly composed close-ups from Moonlight or unbelievable cinematography from Frances Ha don’t just happen purely from a love of the art form. You need an education in filmmaking to understand the technical and creative aspects it takes to make a shot, a scene, a cinematic story, that people can connect with. If you’re looking to make movies, these 10 schools offer the most impressive alumni networks, resources, concentrations, awards and recognitions and facilities to push you to your creative filmmaking capabilities.
10. University of Texas, Austin
No, the University of Texas in Austin isn’t on the list solely because Matthew McCaughey often teaches classes there, his alma mater—although it helps. UT’s highly selective film program rules in every way. Austin’s unique arts scene will surely capture and inspire your creativity. Austin brings in all kinds of creative talent in arts and culture. In film and theatre, in particular, the Austin Film Society, City Theater, AFS Cinema and Hyde Park Theater perfectly encapsulate all that Austin has to offer for aspiring filmmakers. Every student gets the opportunity to direct at least two films worthy of their portfolio and get the rights to it completely. UT also prides itself on having a prestigious and high-quality film program while also being more affordable. You don’t have to go to New York or Los Angeles to get a good film education. UT has the atmosphere and dedication to its students that go above and beyond.
9. Florida State University
As an FSU student, we very much pride ourselves on being the reason Moonlight exists. FSU gives you the hands-on experience you need to thrive in your filmmaking career. You get full access to equipment and full funding for your wonderful, crazy passion projects. Ninety-seven percent of graduates get work in the industry within a year of graduation. After you graduate, FSU allows you to have a mentor for help navigating the job world with your degree. “We all have access to the same equipment and training as our peers, and we, for the most part, don’t have to dip into our own pockets to create our films. We get to learn how to do every position on a set and most of what we get is from actually being on set and growing from the challenges we face there,” said FSU student Connie O’Connor. “I really appreciate the hands-on experience and the attention to story and the strength of working together with a team that’s just as passionate about film as I am.” I am ready to watch all the FSU student films right now, please.
8. Columbia University
Aside from the very nice perk of being able to study film in one of the biggest film capitals of the world, Columbia has one of the best film schools. They challenge students to tell the best stories. The university puts a strong emphasis on storytelling and having the most compelling narrative. Though it offers concentrations in Writing, Directing or Creative Producing, students get a background in everything to make them well-versed in the entirety of filmmaking. Columbia’s prestige stems from outside of their film program, but they have shaped so many people who made a gigantic break in the entertainment industry. Jennifer Lee, Greg Mottola, Kathryn Bigelow, Simon Kinerg all graduated from Columbia and are the voices behind films like Frozen, Superbad, X-Men, Zero Dark Thirty and Adventureland. Plus, did I mention New York City?
7. Loyola Marymount University
Get ready for access to an extensive amount of film equipment to use at LMU. The school contains a 4,000+ square foot premise studio stocked fully with all of the cameras, sound recording and post-production facilities you could need. The dean, Peggy Rajski, is an Academy-Award winning filmmaker for Best Live Action Short. The school also deeply values collaboration and connection. “LMU really tries to foster a familial experience. Every one of your peers is made to feel less like your competition and more like a family member with whom you will work with for the rest of your career. This is important to me because my relationship with film is very much related to its ability to bring people together in unexpected ways,” Senior Ryan Hopkins said. Based in sunny L.A., LMU focuses heavily on collaboration, has faculty with a lot of industry experience, and has an Entertainment Internship Program to place students in L.A.’s biggest and brightest entertainment companies, such as Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, DreamWorks, Disney, HBO…this is a filmmaker’s dream.
6. San Francisco Art Institute
The San Francisco Art Institute uniquely allows students to study filmmaking in a broader context of contemporary art practices. They encourage students to incorporate gallery-based objects, performance, and sound-based works into their filmmaking. This means you already have a world of artistic work to inspire your filmmaking. SFAI teaches students all the types of filmmaking: experimental, narrative, documentary, animation, and hybrid. They encourage creative thinking and pushing boundaries in filmmaking. If you want to be challenged in the way you perceive art and film, SFAI is the school for you. They’ve even had a class called “Radical Directing,” which focuses on all radical aspects of cinema, or approaches that challenge cinematic notrms. I don’t know about you, but I would very much like to take that class.
5. Emerson College
Although not in New York or L.A., Emerson lies in another area with plenty of cultures, Boston, MA. If you have interest in comedy filmmaking, Emerson offers a comedy arts degree like no other. Literally, only Emerson offers that degree. The degree is still a filmmaking degree, with an emphasis on comedy writing and storytelling. Emerson also offers students to screen their films at the Los Angeles Emerson Film Festival. Although a small liberal arts college, do not underestimate Emerson and its ability to produce incredible filmmakers. “Emerson is so collaborative which I love. If I ever need any actors for a project, there are a ton of people willing to work and collaborate on a project with you I think that’s pretty special,” Senior Eliot Lee said. An example includes Manuel Basanese, who worked on shows like Wizards of Waverly Place, The Wayans Bros., Family Matters, The Tracey Ullman Show, among others. In my opinion, the fact that Paul Thomas Anderson, director of There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights, and Phantom Thread, graduated from Emerson is enough to make you want to go here in itself.
4. American Film Institute
If you know anything about film education, you know AFI is one of the greats. You choose a discipline to focus on: Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting. James L. Brooks (director of Broadcast News and As Good As It Gets) works there as the Artistic Director, so you could say this place is pretty legit. Through their high esteemetting an education here connects you to key artists in the industry and gives you the connections you need to succeed. So many iconic directors and filmmakers came from the AFI, including Patty Jenkins, David Lynch, Terrence Malick, Paul Schrader, Amy Heckerling, and Ari Aster. Its incredible prestige, diversity, and opportunity for scholarships make this one a wonderful dream.
3. University of California Los Angeles
UCLA gets all kinds of recognition for having a top-notch film program. So many of the greats came out of this school, such as Francis Ford Coppola and Ava DuVernay. Being the Los Angeles University, it offers education from any kind of film medium whether it’s mainstream, independent or cutting-edge digital. Their interdisciplinary approach to filmmaking allows you to learn every facet of film entertainment. They teach students core film history and theory; film and TV production; and film and TV craft (writing and directing). Regarded as one of the best film schools with the best resources and training, students have access to the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the largest university-based moving image collection in the world. Become a part of this hub of pure creativity and brilliance and join the numerous notable alumni.
2. University of Southern California
Like UCLA, the University of Southern California follows an interdisciplinary approach to their teachings offering classes among seven divisions, them being Animation & Digital Arts, Cinema & Media Studies, Film & Television Production, Interactive Media & Games, Media Arts + Practice, Producing Program and Writing for Film & Television. USC innovatively always has the newest technology advances in entertainment including camera, sound and editing equipment that students get full access to. The school prides itself on their balance of teachings in theory and practice giving a well-rounded education of film even though you have a specific study. You take classes on Creating a Short Film, Film & Digital Technology and Horror Film Production. Its innovate philosophy and technology as well as its deep care with growing student’s cinematic storytelling capabilities makes it no wonder that this school is one of the best-regarded in the country.
1. New York University
Live in the heart of New York–the most creative place in the entire world–and go to its finest university. The world-renowned arts program is the most competitive one in the university. The film program’s cultural impact cannot be matched with filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Joel Coen and Chris Columbus coming out of it. If you have a passion for independent or documentary filmmaking, NYU student films veer more in that experimental, personal direction. They hugely emphasize telling your own story and writing based on your own experiences. NYU offers the best film program not only because of its resources and location, but because they push you to tell your best story. Go to NYU and you’ll get inspired by the creative and passionate people surrounding you, and of course, get inspired by New York City.