Have Camera, Will Study: Three Tips for Venturing Beyond the U.S. and Canada and Going to Film School Abroad

Outside of our favorite film degree programs in the U.S. and Canada, there’s a world of film schools out there, from Mexico’s Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica to Beijing Film Academy, or Tel Aviv University’s Steve Tisch School of Film and Television.

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and studying film abroad, you’re probably very excited… and a little nervous. We asked a few international film school representatives for the following three pieces of advice.

1. Research global moviemaking hubs.

As a prospective film student you may be loath to apply outside of L.A. and New York, let alone outside of North America, but you shouldn’t be dismissive of international options. Why not study in the U.K., for instance? The growth of British television and film is not to be underestimated: Competitive tax incentives, careful investment in creative talent, and a reputation for high-quality productions have made the U.K. a favorable destination for such major franchises as Star Wars, among others.

Check and see if the school has an established internship program, or if classes are taught by working filmmakers. The University of York in England ensures that film students don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of potential industry connects by offering masterclasses taught by professionals like Oscar-winning producer Serena Armitage and Eugénie von Tunzelmann of Man of Steel and Interstellar VFX fame. Additionally, York offers assistance in arranging internships and work placements. “The prominence of the York program means companies are increasingly inclined to favor our students,” says Ed Braman, head of film and television at the university.

2. Evaluate tuition costs and scholarship opportunities.

Studying abroad can actually help you avoid burning an irreparable hole in your pocket, as counter-intuitive as that may seem. Some reputable film programs in the United States can cost as much as $50,000 a year. Schools in Europe, on the other hand, can cost significantly less than their American counterparts. Film programs for international students at the University of York range from about £15-20,000 (US$19-25,000) per year, for example. Meanwhile, foreign students at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU) who choose to take all their classes in Czech aren’t required to pay tuition at all. Yep, the program is completely free—and that includes production fees. For those who feel up to learning Czech, studying at one of the oldest film schools in the world could be the right move. Many American students have taken the plunge, says a FAMU spokesperson.

3. Tap into the school’s support system for international students.

“In our way of thinking, the process of finding yourself is most important,” says Marcin Malatyński, deputy director and head of international relations of the Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School in Lodz. “We’re trying to guide students to open their minds and go beyond their personal borders and limitations.”

The vast majority of schools provide international students with special orientations and advising as components of their academic support systems, for those who are anxious about feeling untethered in an unfamiliar land. York, for example, connects prospective international students with experienced international students from the same country so they can learn about the process from someone who’s been through it all already. Personal hurdles, cultural misunderstandings and linguistic confusion can make the idea of moving abroad daunting, but remember: There’s no better way to gain exposure to new historical, political and social lenses through which to view film. MM

Illustration by Josephine Kyhn. This article appears in MovieMaker‘s Summer 2017 issue.

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