If you're thinking of going to film school, what could be better than an insider's opinion? When asked, some students may say that spending thousands of dollars on a film education is not as important as actually getting the hands-on experience of making films.
Others might not agree. In their opinion, a degree helped to open doors in the industry and showed that they've made a true commitment to the profession. Often, they also tell you that the errors made during their film classes have saved them from making very costly mistakes later. And the contacts that they made during their film school days have proven to be invaluable in gaining employment and networking with fellow professionals once in the business.
In either case, dedication, hard work, and a competitive nature are often cited as being the most important aspects of succeeding in a film career. In New York, an area long known for the drive and competitiveness of its people, these qualities are instrumental to success. Attending a film school in the area is tough. The total number of students enrolled at any given time greatly outnumbers the amount of available jobs in the industry - so students have to excel both in and out of the classroom.
Film programs differ according to the type of school at which they are held. For example, the Film and Electronic Arts program at Bard College, a private educational institution, takes four years to complete with tuition costing approximately $40K per year. The first two years of the program are dedicated to students acquiring a historical and critical background of film (freshman year) and learning the fundamentals of production (sophomore year). Students spend these two years working toward Moderation - a process that determines whether or not they will be allowed to continue their education at Bard.
During Moderation, their educational goals and previous coursework (i.e.: completed film project, full-length script, or historical/critical essay on film) are assessed by a board of professors. If the board feels that the student has met the requirements set for the program, they will allow the student to leave the Lower College and enter the Upper College for two more years of subject-intense film study. If the standards are not met, the student may be put on academic probation or will fail out of the school. Approximately one-third of the students pass, another third fail, and the final third are placed on probation. A student's junior year is involved in the deepening and broadening of creative and critical awareness, and their senior year is devoted to the completion of a Senior Project.
At the Rochester Institute of Technology, students can enroll in the School of Film and Animation which has a four-year program designed to allow students to "learn by doing." This program has long been considered one of the best undergraduate film programs in America and is rated in the top five on the east coast. Annually the program has approximately 600 applications and, of those, only 60 students are chosen to enroll. By the third year of the program, approximately half of those students are still attending class. In addition to classes that involve learning actual film production techniques, their studies include scriptwriting, film history, and aesthetics which are designed to expose students to a broad spectrum of filmmaking styles. Students spend their first year following a basic filmmaking program. In the following years they may choose to follow one of five areas of concentration: production, animation, stagecraft, scriptwriting, or craft. The cost to attend RIT is approximately $31K per year.
City College of New York offers an undergraduate program through the Media & Communication Arts Department. The Film & Video Specialization program provides a wide range of fundamental production skills for both fiction and documentary films. Courses include screenwriting, production, and editing in both 16mm and digital video formats.
Beginning in the freshman year (unlike some other film schools), students are allowed hands-on access to film and video cameras and equipment (professional lights, skateboard and doorway dollies, cookies, etc)- and they are allotted studio time to complete production assignments. Students are required to take courses in history, theory, and aesthetics of film in addition to production classes. Tuition is $1,600 per semester for residents of New York state and $3,400 for non-residents.
In addition to considering tuition costs, students need to check out expenses for housing. Some schools provide on-campus housing, but space can be limited. Apartments located off campus can be expensive - sometimes running at over $1,000 per month without utilities included. In addition, students need to look into daily travel expenditures for getting to and from their school of choice. In the metropolitan areas, mass transportation is available by bus or subway, and commuters from more suburban areas can use local train services. Within New York City, a cost of $2.00 per ride for a local bus or subway ($5.00 per ride for express service) currently is in place. Commuters to the city from Long Island would use the Long Island Rail Road system and can get a monthly pass for unlimited rides at $267 per pass. Individuals coming from the Westchester area or points north would use the Metro North Railroad system and can expect to pay approximately $285 per month depending on point of origin for travel.
All things considered, attending film school in New York can be one of the most competitive yet exciting and rewarding things students can do for their film career. Besides attending schools with diverse styles of teaching and excellent reputations, the excitement of the area with its many avenues of support for film students (film groups, professional and student screenings and exhibits, festivals, competitions, etc.), there are art and historical galleries and museums, music venues, and many other artistic resources that can further enrich a film education.
New York Film Schools & Programs
University, Division of Expanded Media, Video Arts Program - Alfred NY | (607) 871-2111
Programs: Video Arts
- The Art Institute of New York City - New York City, NY
Programs: Video Production
- Bard College - Annandale-on-Hudson, NY | (845) 758-6822
Programs: Film and Electronic Arts
- City College of New York (CUNY), Media & Communication Arts Department - New York, NY | (212) 650-7167
Programs: Film & Video; Film Graduate MFA
- Columbia University, School of the Arts - New York, NY | (212) 854-2875
Programs: Film Studies; Film Graduate MFA
- DV Dojo - New York City, NY | (212) 477-2299
Programs: Film Boot Camps and Specialty Courses
- SBI Campus, an Affiliate of Sanford-Brown - Long Island, NY
Programs: Digital Film
- SBI Campus, an Affiliate of Sanford-Brown - New York, NY
Programs: Digital Filmmaking and Multimedia
- New York University, Tisch School of the Arts - New York, NY | (212) 998-1800 | Email
Programs: Film & Television
- Purchase College, Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film - Purchase, NY | (914) 251-6300
Programs: Acting, Film, Design/Technology, Dramatic Writing
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Art Department - Troy, NY | (518) 276-4778
Programs: Electronic Arts
- Rochester Institute of Technology, School of Film & Animation - Rochester, NY | (585) 475-6175 | Email
Programs: Production, Animation, Stagecraft, Scriptwriting, Craft
- 3D Training Institute - New York City
- Vassar College, Center for Drama & Film - Poughkeepsie, NY | (845) 437-5473
Programs: Film Studies, Filmmaking