More cases than not, people tend to consider film an “easy” college major. A route or formula designed for those who are too lazy to participate in real classes. I can recount (a few weeks back) a young girl giving me quite a look of distaste when I informed her my area of expertise rivaled her major (biology) in difficulty.

What many people seem to misunderstand is the amount of work necessary to make a film, even in smaller projects. Many people would consider this thought process ludicrous. How can film be equated to the likes of paths such as biology, pharmacy, mathematics, etc. Well, the path to understanding an area of art is to willingly learn more of it. Promise, if more people were allowed to be on the set of a production, forced to make their own short, or work behind the scenes during pre or post-production they would find a new appreciation behind the art of filmmaking.

Now, excuse my off-topic musings. This conversation leads back to a more finalized idea. For most, even a bachelor’s degree in film (or something related) does not prepare them for the level of sophistication necessary to work on indie or high budget films. In this case, individuals who want to focus on the industry have two options

1. Jump in and work
2. Go to graduate school

Interestingly, the second option is the first option (to a degree) while the first option is independent of the second. To go to graduate school means you’ll be working in the industry, but working in the industry does not mean you’ll go to graduate school. At the moment, I’m staying with family Los Angeles, California. Consider Cali the overwhelming central of mass media (besides New York, and upcoming Atlanta). Thus, the best graduate schools will most likely be centered around where business is most productive. During my time in Cali, I took out the time to check out three of the top schools for film in the nation.

UCLA

UCLA had the privilege of being the closest school to where I was staying. UCLA was also the only school I explored without supervision (in comparison to the other two). I may have missed out on a few things because of this, but I was able to easily get all of the factual information I needed from the front desk of East Melnitz Hall (one of the film department buildings).

The campus is an uphill battle so be prepared to walk. One of the nice things about the campus (which I would find out about all three) was that it was an actual campus, not a series of building stuffed into the city. The department’s contribution to the film industry (specifically the films alumni have worked on) was impressive. I thought the department would be much bigger, but it is actually tucked away on the outskirts of campus to itself.

I maybe ignorant of UCLA’s main provocation to come to its school, but I thought the film program was the most prominent quality. I may have just been assuming, but it was still a very good visit nonetheless. I wasn’t able to truly flesh out the innards of UCLA’s grad school, but I believe it is a very appropriate option. Name alone is enough, but I’d highly recommend taking the tour

USC

I am most definitely glad I took out the time to visit USC. This time I did it the right way by going for an actual planned visit. You can find the information you need to visit here.

USC reminds me of the program I’m in at the moment. It’s known as New College. It is an interdisciplinary degree program which lets you pull from a plethora of different curriculum throughout the school while maintaining a core class focus (pretty cool). USC allows you to come in on various differing notes (screenwriting, directing, producing, editing, and the list goes on), but what you find out is that you’ll be dabbling in a mixture of everything.

The programs emphasizes the necessity of creativity and willingness to delve in the various mediums of film, while strengthening the main process you entered for. I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. If I definitely like the fact USC looks for students based in creativity rather than strictly looking for students who are just film.

Out of the three trips, I can say the AFI tour was the most intimate.   The tours are very small number wise (my tour consisted of only one other individual who had already been accepted).

AFI

From the beginning, I found AFI tremendously interesting, especially its location. Each of the campuses sit atop a mountain or hill of some sort, but AFI is literally etched into the side of a mountain. From the main road, without my GPS, I would have most definitely missed the entrance.

The institute is right beside a high school Catholic institute (interestingly, the Conservatory use to be the Catholic school’s college for the graduating girls before being bought out).

AFI’s curriculum and methods are far more narrow and specific. You will be helping with every aspect of film, but you will be focused primarily on the specific graduate path you chose. Each of the school’s graduate acceptance is extremely small, but AFI stands out with the least amount of applicants who are accepted. This is due AFI’s demanding process which forces you to deal with a small, group of students though your two year program. In comparison to the other two school, AFI ONLY has a graduate program. The AFI’s program includes a good amount of perks if you are able to make it through, but of the three you can expect this program to be the most demanding of your time.

I consider these three graduate programs probably the best in the entire nation when focusing on film (I’ve heard NYU has an excellent program so I’ll have to do more research). Each has its perks. USC allows you to be more broadened in your horizons while AFI expects you to more keenly hone the skill you came in to cultivate. UCLA’s position in a nice community as well as its perks does not slink behind either of these programs, but I’m unable to give as accurate a description since I did trudged the journey by myself.

Hopefully (in a year or two) I’ll be at one of these schools. You never know what is in store for the future, but I do know I must be willing to accept any opportunity I am given. Till then, I need to keep striving to make opportunities.

If you have any other film schools you would recommend looking into please inform me via comments.