Should You Take on Debt for Film School?

Should you take on debt to go to film school? This is an uncomfortable question for me to answer. I am a privileged cic-gendered half-white male who grew up in an upper-middle-class household. It is a privilege to sit and type thoughts on student loan debt for a high-risk degree while my parents pay my rent.

I am not going to pretend like I know what's best for you.

With that said, Google Analytics said said this would be a valuable post so in the spirit of being candid, I'll share my experiences as someone who consciously chose a film school where I would not incur debt. Here are some questions to ask yourself before going to film school.

The Value of Expensive and Highly Ranked Film Schools

It all comes down to network.

Most people will explain the value of creative networks through alumni and professors, but it is difficult to understate the value of an academic culture.

Speaking to current students at schools to understand how you might fit-in is a great step to choosing where you want to attend.

My Experience

To decide to go to film school takes either a level of ignorance (if you're reading this, you're not in that group) or a level of courage. There is some risk in attending film school. When I told my parents I wanted to explore my interests in filmmaking at film school, they made me a deal: you can go to film school if you don't have debt.

Fair enough. My parents had saved enough to afford Illinois in-state tuition. It did not seem impossible to go to New York or Los Angeles debt-free with the right scholarships.

I was wrong.

I was either rejected or could not afford any of the film schools I applied to with the exception of DePaul University. I am still incredibly grateful for the opportunity DePaul provided me to study my passion without taking on debt. Go Demons.

Am I choosing my film school out of fear?

I've seen a lot of young people that are inclined to go to higher-ranking (whatever that means) and more expensive film schools because there's a level of insecurity about the quality of their work or future career opportunities.

The end of senior year of high school was fraught with different people flexing the college they chose to attend.

By your junior year of college, what college you decided to attend becomes entirely irrelevant. What you've shot and written are your only real qualifications.

Take pride in your work, not your school.

How do I develop a network outside of film school?

The easy answer is use, the portfolio-hosting platform built to connect student filmmakers across the world, regardless of what school they go to.

Student filmmakers will also submit to film festivals around the country. Most notably the Student International Film Festivals and the LA Student Film Festival. Going to any notable international festival will put you in a great position to meet valuable connections, though.

I don't want to pay to go to film school. What should I do?

Make. Movies.

The easiest way to attract attention to your personal brand is to consistently practice telling stories. Film school is, at its core, just a way to make it easy to develop the habit of creating.

Experiment on different people's sets, find people near you on and collaborate with them, and don't be afraid to reach out to people and ask what their passions are.

If you love movies, it's easy to find your people.