Let’s start our list of the best film schools in the U.S. and Canada with an anecdote about the importance of film school.
Auteur extraordinaire Christopher Nolan’s first day at university set the firm foundations of his storytelling career. Interested in film since he was knee-high to a grasshopper or indeed a Doodlebug, he got to grips with his dad’s Super 8 camera as a kid.
But it was stepping through the doors of University College London, where he studied English Literature that cemented his path to cinematic splendor. It’s where he met his future wife, mother of his four children, and longtime film producing partner Emma Thomas on his first day there. As president of the school’s film society, he spent his spare hours making short films in UCL’s Bloomsbury Theatre. And his course informed his writing process, detailing the literary ideas and methods that underscore film criticism.
Later, his alma mater became the backdrop in a number of his movies, including Inception and Batman Begins. Kindred collaborators, equipment to run wild with, and courses to expand your movie-focused mind… these are all things that are offered at film school.
Nolan, whose movies are both cerebrally captivating and commercially successful, has been dubbed the greatest living director of the 21st century. He’s a Kubrick, a Scott, and a Spielberg when it comes to delivering an onscreen story that engages body, mind, and spirit.
The post-graduate made his first feature using reliable friends as actors, filmed in black and white, and only shot on weekends when he and his cast and crew were free of their jobs. The result was the unnerving noir Following, which was a hit on the festival circuit and scored Nolan his first big-time directing gig with Memento, a unique time-reverse tale he penned based on a short story his brother Jonathan had written.
In our list of 2019’s 40 best film schools in the United States and Canada, we take the Nolan method—non-linear, a little abstract, a bit erudite, with plenty of moxie. Keep in mind that doing your own research on programs, talking to staff, and visiting the institutions you’re considering always yields the best results.
That said, this article hones in on not just the courses on offer at traditional film schools but also the additional opportunities that abound at more unconventional programs that can also provide momentum toward your film future.
Very soon you could be like Nolan’s Inception hero, Cobb. It might feel like you’re waiting for a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but it doesn’t matter… for you’ll be on the right track for storytelling.