Straight to the point, no-bullshit—this is a list of the best film schools in the world and how to crack their admission process. Spanning the US and EU, with a special mention for the Film and Television Institute in India, this covers the preliminary research aspiring filmmakers have to do to shortlist their dream school so that you can get to work on fulfilling its requirements.
TISCH School of Arts NYU (US)
Community service and a distinct voice. The NYU-based prestigious arts school emphasizes that your creative resume can include a list of activities that are not strictly creative, so long as they highlight “an engagement with your community and/or a significant time commitment from you.”
Their list of requirements includes a portfolio with original works, two creative assignments, the resume mentioned above and a video about yourself. The video, specifically, must be true to who you are and should not be a repetition of why you are applying to the school. The rest is up to you.
Notable alumni include: Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Reed Morano, Joel Coen, M Knight Shyamalan, Charlie Kaufman, Chris Columbus
Lots and lots of work. The school requires quite a hefty portfolio that includes things like a short feature or documentary (up to 10 minutes long), a storyboard presenting a narrative based on an encounter, two short synopses for short fiction films and an audiovisual self-portrait.
Notable alumni include: Milan Kundera, Frank Beyer, Agnieszka Holland, Milos Forman, Jasmin Dizdar
London Film School (EU)
Initiative. This film school has a relatively straightforward portfolio requirement: an original script for a three-minute-long film. However, they provide the option of sending in any other creative work, including photographs, videos or even literary pieces. So, get creative and show them what you’ve got—quite literally—in your arsenal.
Notable alumni include: Iain Smith (Mad Max), Michael Mann (Heat, Miami Vice), Terry Bredford (Monty Python), Don Boyd (21), Tak Fujimoto (Star Wars, Silence of the Lambs, Gladiator)
American Film Institute (US)
Passion and street smarts that help you tell compelling stories with limited budgets. The institute offers two year masters in fine arts specialising in 6 disciplines—direction, cinematography, screenwriting, editing, production and production design. Admission to each of these programs has different requirements; for instance, the direction course mandates the submission of:
- A 10-minutes moving image project that the applicant has personally directed and that best demonstrates individual talent and ability.
- An original moving short (five minutes or less) that highlights your storytelling abilities.
Both of these must be accompanied by one-page descriptions of why and how you made these films.
Notable alumni include: Darren Aronofsky, Neal Baer (Law and Order), Moritz Borman (Terminator Salvation) and Doug Ellin (Entourage)
Knowledge and a sharp focus on why you want to be a filmmaker. The Pune-based institute has an entrance examination followed by an interview where you must demonstrate why you want to make movies.
Notable alumni include: Jaya Bachchan, Naseeruddin Shah, David Dhawan, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi, Rajkumar Hirani, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Rajkumar Rao
University of Southern California, LA (US)
Quality letters of recommendation as well as good communication skills. In addition to your creative portfolio list or list of projects you have worked on and samples of your work, USC requires a compelling personal statement and two letters of recommendation.
Notable alumni include: Will Ferrel, Macy Gray, LeVar Burton, Forest Whitaker
A keen sense of interest in one of the aspects of filmmaking, for both their Masters and undergraduate programs. The requirements for the undergraduate program also include a one-page essay on a challenge that you have faced.
Notable alumni include: James Dean, Steve Martin, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Jim Morrison and Ray Manzerek.
Cal Arts (US)
Plans for the future. This film school wants to know how far along you are on your creative journey and where you want to go. In addition to film or video work, the institute requires an artist statement that addresses the issues that inform your filmmaking, your artistic goals, a little bit about the films you want to make and why you’re applying to Cal Arts.
Notable alumni include: James Mangold (The Wolverine), Tariq Tapa (Zero Bridge), David Nordstrom and Rachel Goldberg
Lodz Film School
Versatility. In addition to samples of your work, Lodz requires you to submit a self-presentation on who you are and your life, an outline of an original fiction film, an idea for a documentary and a story board on Landscape, Portrait and your observation of an event with no more than five to eight images.
Notable alumni include: Roman Polanski, Emily Young, Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Zanussi