Top 10 Best Film Schools in the US (2024)

Best Film Schools in the US

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The best film schools in the US not only teach you filmmaking but also provide equipment, networking, and work experience. What’s more, the most famous schools have an alumni of award-winning filmmakers who support the school and even teach lessons.

However, of course, for all those perks, you might find the high tuition fees and competitive acceptance rates offputting. Most people will tell you to study in LA, but there are top schools all over the country.

So, if you’re looking to enroll in a film school in the US, keep reading to learn about the best options available and what each one has to offer.

How To Pick a Film School

Before you pick a film school, there are a few factors to consider. First is the tuition cost. The most prestigious film schools all have very high annual costs. Some courses last two years and others four years, therefore you should know your finances before attending.

The best film schools in the US also have low acceptance rates. These schools are very competitive, so it makes sense to apply to a selection of schools instead of relying on one application. In addition to this, the city you study in will also affect your finances and living costs.

Lastly, there are two types of courses. All-round courses that teach a range of skills and ones that focus on a discipline. If you know what area you want to study, you can focus on one subject. Otherwise, you can take a course that teaches the entire production process.

Best Film Schools in the US

1. AFI Conservatory

  • Tuition: $68,203
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Acceptance Rate: 3%

The American Film Institute is well known as one of the best film schools in the US. Based in Hollywood, Los Angeles, it boasts celebrity alumni such as Darren Aronofsky and David Lynch. You also have the opportunity to make films with both digital and 35mm cameras.

There are six subjects available: cinematography, directing, editing, producing, production design, and screenwriting. Of course, all of this comes at a high cost and low acceptance rate. However, they do have scholarships for underrepresented and low-income filmmakers.

2. Cal Arts

  • Tuition: $56,074
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Acceptance Rate: 29%

California Institute of the Arts is renowned as one of the best film schools in the US. This institute is for animation students, with courses focusing on drawing, storyboarding, and digital animation. They also have a master’s course in experimental animation and directing. 

You can expect access to world-class equipment, studios, and software. Students can also gain work experience at Disney and Pixar. The school’s alumni include Tim Burton, Brad Bird, and John Lasseter. Although tuition fees are high, students can apply for grants.

3. New York Film Academy

  • Tuition: $43,006
  • Location: New York
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%

If you want to avoid relocating to LA, try the New York Film Academy. They have both bachelor’s and MA courses available that you can choose for one or two years. It has an acceptance rate of 100% as it has a non-competitive open submission policy.

The school offers practical experience, and all teachers have worked in the film industry. You can pick from four courses, filmmaking, producing, documentary, and screenwriting. They also provide grants for students from low-income backgrounds. 

4. Emerson College

  • Tuition: $46,016
  • Location: Boston
  • Acceptance Rate: 41%

In Boston, Emmerson College has a highly-rated BA course called Film Art. It covers experimental, video art, and web series. The course also provides the opportunity to have a year’s study in Paris and a summer residency in the Netherlands.

It’s said to be one of the best film schools in the US if you are interested in film arts and want a unique education. The facility also has access to a virtual reality lab and specialist editing suits. Their alumni include comedian Jay Leno and actress Jennifer Coolidge.

5. USC

  • Tuition: $53,448
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Acceptance Rate: 9%

The University of Southern California has one of the best film schools in the US. The courses cover film, television, animation, and screenwriting. They are ranked highly for tuition and equipment access. However, they are very competitive and have a low acceptance rate.

Recently, USC built a new campus and updated its professional equipment. In addition, their alumni include George Lucas and Ron Howard, who sometimes teach workshops. The school has grants, but keep in mind the amounts provided are relatively small.

6. University of Texas

  • Tuition: $38,072
  • Location: Austin
  • Acceptance Rate: 29%

If you’re looking for a film school outside of LA, check out the University Of Texas. They have a range of impressive facilities, including the largest green screens. It also has motion capture studios, stereoscopic cameras, and innovative 3D production studios. 

There are two courses available, a master’s in media and film or a master’s in screenwriting. Their past students include directors Robert Rodriguez and Mark Duplass. Plus, the university has a variety of grants and awards you can enter to help with the tuition fees.

7. DePaul University

  • Tuition: $39,369
  • Location: Chicago
  • Acceptance Rate: 68%

Next, DePaul University has several undergraduate courses in film and television. In addition, the film school offers master’s courses in animation, screenwriting, and film directing. They also provide access to state-of-the-art studios and equipment.

As a student, you can also attend a ten-week immersion program in Los Angeles. Through this experience, students learn how to work in a professional studio and network. Depaul has many financial aid options, including discounts for students with high GPA scores.

8. Columbia University

  • Tuition: $60,784
  • Location: New York
  • Acceptance Rate: 10%

Columbia University is one of the best film schools in the US, with MA classes in screenwriting, directing, and producing. Located in central New York, this film school is highly competitive. The School of Arts says its mission is to create storytellers.

All students will have the chance to make a short film with professional studio equipment, which you can then use as a calling card for work. Greta Gerwig and James Gunn, now successful Hollywood directors, started their careers at Columbia.

9. University of Nebraska

  • Tuition: $27,082
  • Location: Lincoln
  • Acceptance Rate: 81%

In Nebraska, you can take a 4-year course in cinematic arts covering the entire filmmaking process. It has more affordable tuition fees, and financial aid is also available. The course also boasts smaller classes, allowing for 1-to-1 mentoring.

The 4-year course will teach students a range of skills from teamwork, business, and design to help them find work in the real world. Nebraska doesn’t have the prestige of the other film schools, but it can provide a good starting point for aspiring filmmakers.

10. University of Colorado

  • Tuition: $35,959
  • Location: Denver
  • Acceptance Rate: 20%

Lastly, we have another budget-friendly university based in Dever. The cinema department has two courses, a BA and an MA in film. The courses promise to be practical and teach real-life film industry know-how. Students can also intern at local film and media companies.

There are several grants and discounts available for local students. Although the course is more affordable, students do need to pay for equipment rental. Otherwise, it’s a well-reviewed course that would suit anyone who prefers not to live in a big city.

Wrapping Up

So, now you know about the best film schools in the US, you can start to decide which school you might want to attend. When picking a school, consider your living costs and weigh up the perks of each school. The most expensive schools are not necessarily the best for everyone.

To apply to a film school, you will need to have graduated high school, and many also ask for a work sample. This work sample might be a short film or a short screenplay. You should also apply to several schools to increase your chances of acceptance.

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