Top Schools Series: Hungry for that Film Degree? Here are the Nation’s Top 5 Film Schools

This is the first in a series of top school listings for entertainment business entrepreneurs like you, undaunted by the current post-graduation unemployment numbers.

You believe in the power of great storytelling and film's power to sway human emotion. You love celluloid more than even your cellular phone. To you, film is immortal, worth fighting for, worth working 16- to 20-hour days for.

However, there's one thing in your way: lack of knowledge. You're hungry to learn the industry before diving headfirst into it, and rightly so.

No worries. Despite the myriad film schools out there, I've hunted down the top five film schools in the U.S. for you. Enjoy.

1. AFI (American Film Institute): This seems like a no-brainer, right? The Hollywood Reporter ranked AFI the #1 film school in the world in 2011, boasting David Lynch and Darren Aronofsky as alumni. It costs a pretty penny, of course (approximately $83k, according to The Hollywood Reporter), but if you apply for enough scholarships and save up, nothing can stop you from going.

Important note: AFI only offers a Masters and certificate of completion, so you’ll need your Bachelors first.

2. University of Southern California: USC is the ultimate technical school for filmmakers to use state-of-the-art equipment and learn in a studio-like environment, thanks to handsome contributions from alumni George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis and non-alum Steven Spielberg, and ranks among the top five film schools on The Hollywood Reporter (THR),, and

USC spans B.A. to Ph.D degrees in film and television, but also in digital arts and animation. At $42k, that’s a good deal. (Trust me, it is – my film school was $23k more.)

3. Columbia University School of the Arts: The Ivy League school immerses their film students in film's rich history, provides intense focus on screenwriting (which is in dire need right about now), and its acclaimed faculty (including Milos Forman and Focus Features' James Schamus) spurs students to success with undaunted inspiration and invaluable industry expertise.

Like AFI, Columbia’s film school is Masters only, so you’ll have to have your Bachelors already.

4. New York University Tisch School of the Arts (NYU): In the film world, Tisch is synonymous with elite. This school is as immersive as Columbia, and offers all levels of secondary degrees in cinema studies, performance studies, archiving and preservation, from B.A. all the way to Ph.D for approximately $46k.

Tisch's alumni include Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and Joel Coen of the Coen brothers (No Country for Old Men).

5. University of California Los Angeles School of Theater, Film, and Television: The UCLA name carries a weight all its own, but its film school is stellar as well. Though USC eclipses it a bit, it's still one of California's premier schools and offers a video library that is second only to the Library of Congress (yikes!).

It also offers a much less expensive B.A. program than several of the schools listed here (approximately $13k for California residents, $36k for non-residents), and a highly experiential and multicultural curriculum for its students. Its alumni include Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) and Tim Robbins (Dead Man Walking).

So, if knowledge is your one obstacle...

you're free to shatter it now. These schools offer some of the greatest curricula you can find in the U.S. Start saving up and apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible. Research your dream school's requirements and get about meeting them. I'd love to see your name among the great alumni and your movie in a theater near me. :)

Want More Information?

Check out these sites for more on the best film schools:

The Hollywood Reporter’s article   

Flickr image by Brian Finifter.

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