Michelle Foley 7 min read 12th Grade, Academic Tips and Info

Should You Major in Film?

Film is the study of video media, covering every process from script to screen. The major is inherently multifaceted and interdisciplinary, as students must develop a solid understanding of visuals, sound, and storytelling to become truly skilled filmmakers. 

 

In today’s media-driven world, students are increasingly drawn to this field, but most will have to do a bit more research to decide if it’s truly for them. In this post, we will cover everything you need to know about studying film, including the best colleges for this degree, preferred skills and personality traits, college life, and your post-grad prospects.

 

Overview of the Film Major

 

The major will likely start off with a few introductory courses covering the basics of film theory, storytelling, and analysis. Expect some small lecture and seminar-style courses based on shared film writing and analysis in your film theory, critique, and history courses. You’ll be introduced to artistic concepts like color theory and composition, write essays, and discuss works with your peers to deepen your understanding of each films’ intent and impact. 

 

Your production classes will be a bit different. More technical and application-based, you’ll likely be expected to put together short films of your own to truly immerse yourself in the directing, producing, and editing process. Workshops and practicums will further enhance your real-life skills, and you’ll likely practice pitching and analyzing your own work.

 

While each college will have unique course requirements, you’ll likely cover the following subjects:

 

  • Sound Design
  • Cinematography
  • Editing
  • Directing
  • Film/Television History
  • Film/Television Production and Management
  • Film Theory/Criticism
  • Screenwriting

 

As your undergraduate career progresses, you may specialize in one of many areas, such as cinematography, screenwriting, or commercial content production. In fact, some schools won’t let you study “film” in a broad sense and will require you to hone in on a particular concentration. 

 

Do most students go on to grad school?

 

Regardless of whether you choose to study film through grad school or undergrad, it’s important to understand yourself well in order to decide if it’s best for you!

 

The film industry is competitive, and making it often requires grit and an intense work ethic. Whether you’re directing or editing, you’ll need stamina and a strong enough passion for film to fuel long hours. Given the complex nature of filmmaking, you’ll also need strong adaptability and communication skills to cover all of the bases necessary.

 

Studying film is a practice as individual as it is collaborative; prospective students should prepare for solo shooting as well as team projects. A strong capacity for connection is key in every field, but you’ll need it even more for an industry in which the power of networking and connections often outweighs that of a degree. 

 

Like most things in life, the film major is what you make of it: You’ll need a deep willingness to learn, whether you’re picking up tried-and-true techniques in the classroom, or embarking on your own experiences to uniquely draw from. Create and pursue opportunities like clubs, internships, lectures by established professionals, and networking events. The entertainment industry is built on go-getters and self-starters.

 

What Can You Do With A Film Degree?

 

1. Director

Median Salary: $70k

Projected Growth:10%

 

In seemingly every beginning student’s dream job, directors are the absolute heads of a film production. As overseers, managers, and creators, they possess and employ a varied skill set interpersonally, technically, and creatively. Despite long hours and intense pressure, directors tend to enjoy strong job satisfaction; as the face of the film, they are often given substantial credit for the work they produce. 

 

Aside from the expected independently-developed soft and hard skills, most directors are bolstered by a strong BFA or even MFA film background. A formal education will give you a necessarily broad understanding of film production, but you’ll be most successful if you supplement classroom knowledge with hands-on experience via a job or internship.

 

2. Producer

Median Salary: $57k

Projected Growth: 10%

 

Successful producers are great multitaskers. As planners, coordinators, and marketers, producers are essentially responsible for the process of translating script to screen from start to finish. Like directors, they need a broad base of knowledge (most often acquired through BFA/MFA and hands-on experience). That said, producers are more technical and business-oriented, while directors are responsible for the creative aspects of filmmaking. Producers are responsible for hiring screenwriters, directors, assistants, and more, so they require strong judgement and interpersonal skills.

 

3. Set Designer

Median Salary: $51k

Projected Growth: 7%

 

The job title matches its description; set designers design sets for films, theater, and television. It’s the designer’s job to bring creative visual ideas to realistic fruition using sketches, diagrams, and solid decision-making. They’ll need a strong understanding of the script, and the vision the director and producer are working towards. 

 

Successful set designers are usually creative, communicative, and innovative. They may major in film with a specialization in design, specifically set and scenic design, to develop a strong understanding of film and artistic theory.

 

4. Director of Photography

Median Salary: $66k

Projected Growth: 11%

 

Sometimes known as cinematographers, photography directors oversee light and camera crews throughout the filmmaking process. They tend to have strong technical, artistic, and managerial skills and are focused on creating the right “look” of a film, from shooting to editing.

 

While hands-on internships and jobs are a highly effective way of picking up the technical skills you’ll need, a degree in film production will give you deep and broad knowledge about the photographic process.

 

5. Videographer

Median Salary: $45k

Projected Growth: 18%

 

Videographers do the hands-on work of actually filming every movie. In addition, they check equipment for functionality, edit, and coordinate with other workers to have the most efficient shooting session possible.

 

This position requires ample fitness, stamina, and proficiency with key video editing software. A film degree will push you to pick up these skills and create a solid filmmaking portfolio, so you can best connect with future employers.

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Best Colleges for Film Majors

 

1. University of Southern California

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Acceptance Rate: 16%

Undergrad Enrollment: 19,907

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1410-1520 SAT, 32-35 ACT

 

University of California (USC) film students study in the highly selective USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), which boasts a narrow 2% acceptance rate. Los Angeles is a thriving hub for film and entertainment, providing SCA students a plethora of opportunities within the campus walls and beyond.

 

SCA is unique in teaching across all major Cinematic Arts disciplines and seven broad divisions, so they pride themselves in their interdisciplinary, hands-on approach. The Film and Television division in particular provides unparalleled technological resources to support students in their processes of filming, producing, and editing.

 

Learn more about USC and what it takes to be accepted.

 

2.  University of California, Los Angeles

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Acceptance Rate: 12.4%

Undergrad Enrollment: 31,577

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1290-1520 SAT, 30-34 ACT

 

The University of California, Los Angeles, or UCLA, is well-known as one of the top public universities. Like USC, it’s sought-after for its arts, academics and LA location.

 

The UCLA Film and TV Internship Program connects juniors and seniors with internships to complete alongside major-specific coursework. UCLA offers a B.A. and minor in Film and Television across cinema and media studies, production, and film and television craft. Students may access the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the largest film collection of any university. 

 

Learn more about UCLA and what it takes to get accepted.

 

3. Chapman University

Location: Orange, CA

Acceptance Rate: 54%

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,281

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1190-1370 SAT, 25-31 ACT

 

Chapman University is located in Old Town Orange, a charming and lively college town. The Film Production major exists within the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts and is highly competitive with a 7% acceptance rate.

 

Chapman’s Film Production Major operates under a philosophy of building a strong foundation in the broad matters of filmmaking and then concentrating on a specific area. Students declare their specializations at the end of their sophomore years, work on a 10-minute Advanced Production project in a team junior year, and gather together the sum of their film knowledge in a thesis film their senior year.

 

Learn more about Chapman and what it takes to get accepted.

 

4. New York University

Location: New York, NY

Acceptance Rate: 15%

Undergrad Enrollment: 26,733

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1350-1530 SAT, 31-35 ACT

 

One of New York University’s biggest draws and claims to fame is its location in its namesake, New York. The Big Apple is a hotbed of opportunity for budding filmmakers, and the resources within NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and more specifically, its Kanbar Institute for Film and Television, provide even more.

 

Students may choose from any of ten available areas of study covering everything from Animation to Film History and Criticism. Each specified area offers unique class offerings and requirements. Students may hunt for jobs and internships through the Tisch Office of Career Development, the NYU Wasserman Center of Career Development, or connect to NYU’s vast alumni network. Ninety-five percent of NYU grads are either working or in graduate school within 6 months of graduation. Entertainment and Media grads make up 14% of working NYU alumnithe largest percentage of all employed grads.

 

Learn more about NYU and what it takes to get accepted.

 

5. Wesleyan University

Location: Middletown, CT

Acceptance Rate: 20%

Undergrad Enrollment: 3,009

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1320-1510 SAT, 31-34 ACT

 

Wesleyan University is a small, private liberal arts college. Its College of Film and Moving Image, which includes the Film Studies Department, the Center for Film Studies, the Cinema Archives and the Wesleyan Film Series, has turned out a large number of notable alumni despite the university’s small size.

 

The major requires two prerequisites, a Sight and Sound workshop junior year, a selection of 6 of dozens of available Film Studies electives, and either a senior thesis or seventh elective. Students often opt into completing a senior thesis or capstone project, which is a fantastic way to build your portfolio.

 

Learn more about Wesleyan University and what it takes to get accepted.

 

There are more colleges that are great for film majors! See the complete list of best colleges for film.

 

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Michelle Foley
Essay Breakdown Writer at CollegeVine
Short bio
Michelle Foley is currently taking a gap year before starting at Yale College in Fall '21, where she is considering majoring in Art, English, or Cognitive Studies while earning her Spanish certificate. In her free time, she likes to paint, run, and read!