Do I Need to go to Grad School or Film School to Make it as a screenwriter in the Entertainment Industry?
Have you been wondering if you need to go to grad school or film school to work in the entertainment industry? What exactly are the pros and cons? Well, this article is for you! In this article, we will be talking all about grad school and film school and whether it’s necessary to attend as a prelude for working as a screenwriter in the entertainment industry.
THE REAL TEA
The short answer is no. If you had asked this question 10 years ago it would truly be no. But in 2022, more people are getting degrees in film, plain and simple. Millennials are the education generation. Our parents encouraged/enforced education down our throats from the moment we could blink. So unlike the days of old, when high school graduates or hard-working immigrants applied for lower-level jobs in Hollywood that would in turn become a networking heaven and eventually turn them into directors, executives, producers, and writers… these days, film school graduates have their own living network.
Film school students are not only being taught by current industry professionals but they are being placed with mentors upon graduating. Beyond that, they may be hired by fellow alum. But I’m sure this isn't news to you – Hollywood is about who you know. Many of the people breaking into Hollywood these days don't have nepotism. So they use the next best thing, their Alumni network. Like other industries, film school students know what skills another graduate has simply because they were in the same program. There is a common bond which makes hiring them a lot easier than hiring a stranger. These also become the people that they seek to collaborate with on projects. Attending film school or grad schools definitely equips you with the tools to get a jump start in this industry. But, it isn’t the only way to gain a seat at the table.
EVERYONE’S PATH IS DIFFERENT
Now, don't get me wrong, you still have people showing up to Hollywood at 18 and working their way up. If you landed yourself an entry-level assistant job, then you don’t necessarily need to go to grad school or film school. You’ll likely learn everything you need to know on the job. Working at an agency is a great way to learn the true ins and outs of the industry. Just like grad school students gain a network, your co-workers become your network. Who you start out in the mailroom with could one day be the EVP or hot new writer on the scene. Ultimately, this industry is all about connections and relationships. Experience matters far more in that world than education. But beware... as the decades continue to fly by and the generations continue to get educated, I see the industry changing. One day, one of the first questions you'll hear from another Hollywood-type will be, "What film school did you go to?"
Film school and grad school are not cheap! Not everyone has the privilege or the access to attend. You ultimately have to make the best decision for you. No one’s path in the industry is a straight line and there are many points of entry.
Whether you’re a film school grad, an entry-level assistant or still figuring out your next move, The Professional Pen is here to help. Are you looking to expand your knowledge of the industry? Then check out our Industry Jam Session! Led by our CEO and Head Consultant, Shannan E. Johnson, a former network executive gain industry insight and get your screenwriting career questions answered by a professional. You can schedule your Industry Jam Session here.