The Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada 2017: Film Programs to Shape You Into the Next Moviemaking All-Star

Beyond the Degree

Professional Guild Programs: Many of Hollywood’s guilds and unions offer educational events of various stripes, most of which are open to non-members. The Writers Guild Foundation puts on frequent panel discussion events in Los Angeles, while the Producers Guild of America conducts an annual eight-week “Power of Diversity Master Workshop” for producers with projects they want to hothouse. Of particular note is the American Society of Cinematographers’ five-day Master Class, held a couple of times a year in Hollywood. At $2,999, it’s for serious takers only, but the chance to study camera, lighting and workflow techniques under some of the society’s widely admired members might be worth it to some aspiring DPs of intermediate to advanced skill.

Film Centers: Investigate what your local film center has to offer. L.A.’s Echo Park Film Center, for example, runs classes with an emphasis on youth filmmaking as well as social justice through cinema. Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s Mono No Aware provides a funky array of film-related craft workshops, priced anywhere from $900 to under $100. During these short (one-to-four days) classes, up to 10 participants learn Super-8, 16mm or 35mm basics; DIY film processing with coffee and beer; direct animation; black and white reversal processing; laser printing on film… you name it. Outside of L.A. and New York, Portland’s Northwest Film Center has comprehensive programs, too.

Community Colleges: A number of community colleges have film programs that rival those of four-year universities—at lower rates. Piedmont Community College in North Carolina has a two-year Film & Video Production Technology program that offers Associate of Applied Science degrees, certificates and diplomas (requirements range from 70 semester hours to just 15); the lab-style courses cover production and post basics, from sound to art direction. Facilities include lighting, sound and editing studios. On the West Coast, Colorado Film School is a branch of the Community College of Aurora, and offers 48-credit certificate programs and 75-credit transferable AAS degrees. CFS has majors in screenwriting, cinematography, post-production and various combinations of acting, directing and producing. Most classes are capped at 16 students, and Colorado residents pay around $4,500 per year (non-residents pay around $15,000).

Film Diploma Programs: Many appreciate the focus and intensity of a diploma-centric institution, and Canada is home to two top examples. Toronto Film School offers 18-month diplomas in Film Production, Writing for Film and TV, and Acting for Film, TV and the Theatre (the former two are also available in 24-month online editions); those programs will cost you around $30,000 in tuition. On the other hand, Vancouver Film School, which now owns eight campuses around the world, specializes in one-year programs in Film Production, Acting for Film + Television, Makeup Design for Film + Television and a range of animation and FX options. – Kelly Leow MM

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

Top photograph by Peter Simon.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


  1. mwebaza martin

    August 7, 2017 at 9:36 am

    I need to join a film school through movie maker…what should I do

  2. Cassandra

    July 24, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Have you ever thought about creating an ebook or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog centered on the same topics you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would appreciate your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an email.

  3. David Liban

    July 21, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    I would like to point out the CU Denver is really a significant hands-on film program. Its a BFA program with 72 credit hours largely made up of production classes. Students leave with a large portfolio of films and are prepared to enter the industry. They also produce a web series each year that students write, produce, direct and edit.

  4. Linda

    July 21, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Correction under Film Centers:

    Northwest Film Forum is located in Seattle, not Portland. However, Portland does have its own film center called the Northwest Film Center which not only provides a variety of workshops and classes for all ages but they host their own film screenings and festival (Portland International FF). They also have quite a great stock of reasonably priced equipment rentals for local students, amateurs and professionals. I believe they’re the only film center in the Pacific NW?

  5. Adam Enaya

    July 20, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    I only needed to read their opinions of the west coast schools to see that this list is a joke. How much did National University pay to have a write-up in MovieMaker? By the way, what’s an admission fee? Do you mean tuition? Their prices must be rock bottom then.

  6. Jay S.

    July 20, 2017 at 7:41 am

    With alumni that have worked on projects such as Jurassic World (visual FX), “Get On Up: The James Brown story” and “42” (main role in both cases), “Avengers Age of Ultron” (Post-production) and the highly anticipated “Black Panther” Marvel movie, as well as the upcoming Martin Scorsese movie “The Irishman”, currently in production, I’m surprised not to see Digital Film Academy included here!

    A friend of mine goes there and I’m considering it too. Their tuition is MUCH lower than New York Film Academy, they have film jobs for the students and anyone who studies there an use the school equipment afterwards for life.

    Jay Smith

  7. James Mayfield

    July 19, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Nice to see some options for students not willing/can’t make the trip to high-rent neighborhoods or bustling metropolitan. Lots of people think that LA/NY are the only options for schools, but there are alternatives. Though I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks these 2 areas aren’t the industry kings in NA.

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