“I wouldn’t be where I am
right now without the FSU Film School’s support,” says
Eduardo Rodriguez, on the set of his $18,000 student film, Daughter.

Film school personnel
have a habit of boasting about the perks their institutions offer
to students. Most of them will also provide a convincing argument
that their gorgeous facilities, ingenious faculty and vital artistic
community is the greatest perk of all. Of course some of this
is, at the end of the day, of little consequence to you. What
you want to know is simply where you’ll
get the biggest bang for your buck, the best chance of wowing a festival
jury and who exactly will pay to process all those precious feet
of film you plan to shoot. While there’s no guarantee that
any package of benefits will make your film school choice a slamdunk,
the following list may help you narrow down what “perks” are
most important to you.

North Carolina School of the Arts, located in
Winston-Salem, NC, has an under­graduate program in moviemaking.
Like most film schools, they pride themselves on their talented
faculty and diverse student body. In addition, the school offers
its film students perhaps the biggest perk of all: money.

“Our students are given a total equipment package,” says Dale Pollock,
Dean of the School of Filmmaking. The package includes film or tape
stock, processing and a cash budget for all the films students make
in their final three years in the program. “We are the only undergraduate
program to supply all equipment and a cash budget for every production,” he

According to Pollock, the school’s contribution
helps to create “a
conservatory atmosphere in which students can focus on their art
form and get hands-on experience shooting digital in their very first

Christopher Lockey, a 2003 graduate, received a $5,000 cash budget
to shoot his final film, with the school covering all additional
costs, as well. The 20-minute film, shot on 16mm, edited digitally
and output back to film, would have been far too expensive for Lockey
to make without the school’s help.

“We [were able to] concentrate on learning how to do it right,” Lockey
says of his training as a writer-director, “not just on getting the
means to do it in the first place.”

Similarly, Florida’s Full Sail Real World Education, which has a
13-month film degree program, pays for students’ moviemaking expenses.

“The school is an all-inclusive program,” says David Franko, program
director at Full Sail. “This would include insurance, permits, processing,
materials for sets, books, film stock and all the equipment.” In
addition, Full Sail allows graduates to return to the school to audit
classes for free whenever the school acquires new equipment. With
almost daily technological advancements in film, the value of this
perk seems particularly high.

But money is not all film schools offer. In fact, many exploit their
location in unique ways, or find interesting ways to help students
gain valuable work experience outside a normal classroom setting.

The University of Utah-Salt Lake City‘s film
studies department offers students class credit to attend the Sundance
Film Festival—and
write a critical analysis of nine films.

California’s Chapman University offers its students a chance to
study abroad in France while completing an internship program at
the Cannes Film Festival. In addition to basic intern duties at the
festival, students take classes in everything from French cooking
to soccer.

Students pursuing an MBA in Media Management at Metropolitan
College of New York
are required to study abroad with a two-week trip
to Cannes. Unlike Chapman, though, Metropolitan’s program is an introduction
to the business side of the festival and the industry itself.

Northwestern University film students can take advantage of Studio
22 Productions, a non-profit, student-run production company that
helps students complete their own projects. The group gets funding
from the school and individual donors, and gives major and minor
grants to several student productions each year.

Rockport College, in Rockport, Maine is also
the site of the International Film & Television Workshops,
one of the country’s most respected film programs. Rockport students
have access to employment at the Workshops each summer, where they
are able to gain experience of their own while working alongside
the industry faculty that comes to the school each summer to teach.

During spring break, film students at the University
of New Orleans
stay at school to work on their Spring Film. This
additional annual project is a major production—anything from a music video to a feature
film—with a full crew of film students, actors and even alumni and

Florida State University, which has both graduate and undergraduate
film students, sees more than 170 new student films each year between
their two programs. The school sends many of them out to film festivals,
and pays all related costs. That includes the cost of prints, shipping
and entrance fees. According to Dr. Raymond Fielding, Dean of the
Film School, FSU sent out 29 student films in 2002 to be screened
at 87 different festivals. The school, which also pays all production
costs for student films in addition to festival expenses, claims
any prizes won by student films to finance future festival expenses.

“How did it help me?” recent FSU graduate Eduardo Rodriguez asks
of the financial support he received for his film. “It’s very simple:
I wouldn’t be where I am right now without the FSU Film School’s
support.” The production costs for Rodriguez’ thesis film, Daughter,
which came to $18,000, were paid entirely by FSU. It was then promoted
by the school at more than 30 international festivals and went on
to win several awards—most notably a nomination for the Palme d’Or
at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.

Daughter raised eyebrows again at FSU’s annual screening
for the Director’s Guild of America in Los Angeles, and a copy of
the film wound up in the hands of Bob Weinstein. Weinstein promptly
signed the young director to a contract, and he’s now hard at work
with veteran writer-director Robert Rodriguez on the script for Curandero,
the first of three films Eduardo will direct for Weinstein’s Dimension

The FSU faculty chooses which films will be submitted to festivals
on behalf of the school. Students who wish to submit a film independently
need to obtain permission from the school as well as pay their own

“The school also operates its own Internet server,” states Fielding.
About 50 of its recent films are screened continuously and upon demand.” FSU
distributes some films through Atomfilms and Hypnotic.

The school’s financial support for production
and festival expenses, says Rodriguez, encourages students to make
better films. “Not having
to pay for your films frees your mind from the concerns and tribulations
that come when you spend your own money on a project. If you make
a movie and you put in your last $25, your vision tends to focus
on the fact that you need to make those $25 back.”

The school offers students the ability to make ambitious, professional
films without going deeply into debt to do so. Ideally, says Rodriguez,
this will eventually encourage young people from low and middle-income
families to pursue moviemaking careers.

These schools all accomplish a similar goal:
helping students understand the complexities of the film industry.
Whether a school can spend thousands of dollars to promote a talented
student or none at all to get them onto a professional set, the
experience—as any moviemaker
will tell you—is what really matters.