Keeping up with the newest skills and credentials in demand may be difficult in a field that changes as rapidly as the film business. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming a filmmaker, film school is a preferred stepping stone for many aspiring creators. For people who enjoy structured education methods, along with the hands-on practice and experimentation-oriented learning experience that film schools provide, they are a strong contender for those looking to make a career in the field. This is especially true of those wanting to work in fields like cinematography, where a creative experience is equally important as the technical knowledge required.
Choosing a film school can be a daunting task. With so many schools to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you? Well, let’s get into it. We will be discussing some of the sought after film schools for cinematography and filmmaking across USA, UK, Asia, Australia, as well as look at some online options.
What to look for?
It’s vital to know what you’re searching for before deciding to enrol in a film school since they provide a vast variety of educational opportunities. The first decision to make is whether you want a more traditional academic setting, where you’ll learn about film history and theory, or if you’d prefer a curriculum that focuses on hands-on production, allowing you to create your own films.
Some film schools provide both choices, while others favour one end of the spectrum. It’s critical to discover a program that matches your interests and goals. You’ll be spending a significant amount of time and money on your degree, therefore it’s critical to choose one’s areas of interest with care. Thinking about what you want to get out of your job might help you decide. Whether you specialise in technical aspects of filmmaking and major in a certain area straight away, or whether you wish to learn a little of everything — the first objective is to figure out what you want.
Colleges in US
When it comes to film schools in the USA, there is no lack of options. With world-renowned institutions like USC and NYU, as well as a wealth of smaller schools that offer unique programming, there’s something for everyone here. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, consider attending one of the many state universities that offer film programs, such as Florida State University or San Francisco State University.
1. USC School of Cinematic Arts
USC School of Cinematic Arts is one of the oldest and most prestigious film schools in America and boasts alumni like George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, and Ron Howard. While the college does not offer a separate cinematography major, it includes all of the skills in the field within its film and television Production program. Students are taught the basics of shooting on equipment ranging from an iPhone to the most hallowed studio equipment. This is a particularly good course for students interested in getting a well-rounded education about not just cinematography, but all aspects of film production.
Annual Tuition: 60,450 USD
Any list regarding film schools is hardly complete without AFI. Students of AFI Conservatory, also called fellows, will find themselves working and learning right next to the hub of film and TV production in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles. With cinematographers like John Caleb Deschanel and director Terence Malik included in the alumni count of its first class, the school is hallowed ground for artists. The recently established Hayla Hutchins cinematography scholarship fund will also allow cinematographers to explore their artistry at this highly respected school, in addition to the MFA cinematography program.
Annual tuition: 70,000 USD
3. NYU Tisch School of the Arts
One of the most renowned performing arts schools in the world, Tisch boasts alumni of the likes of Spike Lee, Chloe Zhao and Jim Jarmusch. It is known for its interdisciplinary programs as well as a huge base of like-minded creators. It offers a graduate program for cinematography majors, with the department headed by Anthony Jannelli. Additionally, it also offers minors or parallel courses like business administration from NYU’s Stern School of Business, making it a top choice for people wanting to work in film production as well as cinematography.
Annual Tuition: 62,062 USD
The UCLA School of Film, Theater and Television marked the first time that a leading university had combined these three aspects of the visual arts under one department. Over the years, it has expanded to provide thorough training in all aspects of filmmaking and production, turning out artists like Francis For Coppola and Paul Schrader. Aspiring cinematographers will especially benefit from the four year cinematography programs, which include a film and television production MFA with a special emphasis on cinematography.
Annual Tuition: 11, 220 USD
5. New York Film Academy
The School for Cinematography is one of New York Film Academy’s finest in particular. At the New York Film Academy’s Cinematography School, students learn the academic and creative principles of a director of photography that are required to establish a film’s distinct visual language. Throughout their stay at the school, students will collaborate on numerous productions with various directors. This hands-on and practical instruction develops their creative and technical skills via practice as well as classroom learning. The college offers an MFA as well as a one-year learning program in cinematography.
Annual Tuition: 21,000 USD (per semester)
Apart from these, well established, historically creative-oriented colleges like Chapman University and Columbia University also offer courses in cinematography. The former especially boasts of impressive alumni like Sofia Ford Coppola, Pedro Almodovar and Denis Villeneuve, providing classes and sessions with them.
Colleges in UK
UK film schools have a reputation for being some of the best in the world. With top-tier universities offering prestigious filmmaking degrees, as well as renowned independent film colleges, British film education is highly respected across the globe.
6. National Film and Television School
Located in Beaconsfield, this school stands out for its working proximity to film and television production in London. Often counted in the ranks of top international film schools, the college offers various courses aimed at imparting a deep understanding of any given field. Consider their Master’s program for instance, which allows students to major in not just fields like cinematography and direction, but also allows them to work as assistant camera managers and the likes. Notable alumni include the legendary Roger Deakins and Andrzej Sekuła.
Annual tuition: 24,088 GBP
7. London Film School
One of the best features of cinematography programs in London Film School is that it allows its students to have hands-on practice. Students enrolled in its Cinematography MFA are encouraged to explore the role of director of photography or camera operator for their own films. Along with that, LFS also advocates for an enriching experience of student filmmaking in its two in-house, fully equipped studios. Aspiring filmmakers may find themselves drawn to this ethos of learning through working, and the famous institute has housed creative powerhouses like Ann Hui and Anjali Menon.
Annual tuition: 15,255 GBP
8. London Film Academy
With a plethora of courses offered across undergraduate, postgraduate and diploma disciplines, the London Film Academy is a prestigious name in the world of filmmaking. Working professionals or artists between projects may find themselves considering the certificate short courses (cinematography and other disciplines included) that last six weeks. Purists will find their demands met in the regular bachelor programs that offer a two-year learning process, followed by a filmmaking M.A. that promises to cover all bases. Notable alumni include Tak Fujimoto and Roger Pratt.
Annual Tuition: 42,000 GBP
9. University of Westminster, London
The University of Westminster, alma mater to names like Andrew Dunn and John Lundberg, is a giant when it comes to film and television. And nowhere is it more reflective than in their expansive courses under the field. With separate bachelors’ programs for film and TV, as well as programs with a focus on production, students will find that this is a great medium to get a well-rounded knowledge of their craft. This holds true for cinematography especially, where it is necessary to temper the technical aspects of the craft with a strong foundation in production basics and aesthetic conventions.
Annual Tuition: 13,000 GBP
Colleges in Asia
Asian film schools have been gaining in popularity in recent years, with many students attracted to the lower cost of living and tuition fees. Amongst up-and-coming colleges, South Korea’s Busan Asian Film School and China’s Beijing Film Academy are among the most promising film schools in Asia. However, there are many other great options available, including South Korea’s Chung-Ang University and Japan’s Tokyo University of the Arts. The film schools in Asia are known for their rigorous and challenging programs. If you’re looking to push yourself to the limit, these schools are for you.
Asian film schools have been gaining popularity in recent years with students from all over the world. India, in particular, has become a hotbed for film production with Bollywood films grossing billions of dollars annually. And it’s no surprise that film schools in India are some of the best in Asia. The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) is one of the most prestigious film schools not just in Asia, but in the world. Located in Pune, FTII offers courses in various aspects of filmmaking including directing, editing, sound design and cinematography. The three-year PG Diploma course, with the annual tuition at 33,000 INR in cinematography looks particularly promising. With alumni like Om Puri, Naseerudin Shah and Rajkumar Hirani, this one is a no-brainer.
11. The Beijing Film Academy
The Beijing Film Academy in China is the largest film school in Asia and has produced some of the continent’s most celebrated filmmakers, including Zhang Yimou and Wong Kar-Wai. The institute offers four-year film production majors across Directing, Cinematography and Post-production, with the cinematography program also being privy to the academy’s first international program. Renowned for its various cinematography courses, the program offers comprehensive training in film theory and practice and provides access to state of the art equipment and facilities. You’ll be able to develop your skills under the guidance of experienced faculty members and learn from your peers. The program will also give you the opportunity to work on real film projects.
Annual Tuition: 51,000 RMB
12. The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts
The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts offering world-renowned film program has churned out talents like Johnnie To, Ann Hui. Blending a broad range of theoretical study with practical filmmaking, the college offers four-year bachelor courses across various majors.
Students enrolled in the cinematography course will be expected to master both lighting and camera operation. They’ll study how to utilise a variety of recording technologies (film and/or digital video) at their disposal. They’ll also learn about TV studio procedures, as well as the opportunity to work on both fiction and non-fiction pieces. The fundamentals of craft and creative skills will serve as the foundation for developing one’s own creative style that may be put to use in interpreting a script.
Annual tuition: 12,890 USD
Colleges in Australia
13. Australian Film, Television & Radio School
One of Australia’s earliest and premier institutions when it comes to film and TV, AFTRS was founded in 1972. Since then, many of its students have joined the ranks of Academy Award winners, BAFTA winners and celebrated industry professionals. Notable alumni include Jane Campion and Andrew Lesnie. The school offers programs like Masters’ program in Cinematography and the screen production Bachelors’ with a cinematography major, aimed at providing a well-rounded education in the field. Practical-oriented students may benefit more from their short certificate courses like Camera Assisting.
Annual Tuition: 15,000 AUD
14. Griffith Film School
Alma Mater to artists like Michael Schofield and Peter Hegedus, GFS is a filmmaking school that was founded in 2004 and provides unrestricted access to top-rated studios. Students may select from a variety of electives to go along with their major. Many of these electives are based upon specialised fields in filmmaking, including editing, production, cinematography, directing, and production design. This functions as a well-rounded technical education to accompany the more academic background of film school. The institution is located near the thriving Queensland film and television centre, where students can interact with artists. Aspiring cinematographers will find Bachelor in Film and Television Production with a minor in Cinematography meeting all their needs.
Annual Tuition: 31,000 AUD
Online Courses in Cinematography
The Covid-19 pandemic has drawn people’s attention towards just how crucial it is to have accessible programs for education from institutions across the world. The same goes for film schools and creative fields like cinematography. Prestigious schools like New York Film Academy have already begun to offer online courses in various fields. Here go our top picks for online cinematography programs:
IIFA Multimedia – 65,000 INR
UCLA Online Extension – 6165 USD
Arizona State University Online – 10,017 USD
Apart from these, students can also utilise online resources for cinematography like Udemy, SkillShare and Masterclass (especially the sessions with icons such as Werner Herzog and Martin Scorsese) that provide access to learning material, recorded classes with industry stalwarts as well as a learning plan with a monthly payment basis. These are especially useful to amateur students who don’t necessarily want to spend a ton of money on traditional film schools, or working professionals who may not be able to afford school full-time.
Film school is a great way to learn the ropes of cinematography from professionals in the field. After all, there is no substitute for experience. And what better way to gain experience than by learning from those who have been doing it for years? Film schools also offer the opportunity to network with other aspiring filmmakers. It can be invaluable in getting your foot in the door. We hope our list of some of the best cinematography colleges helped you make up your mind. Which ones did we miss? Let us know in the comments below!
An avid reader and a life-long lover of blue skies, I like to spend my time with obscure poetry and dissecting films. Currently besotted with Maupassant, art history and all things Nolan, you can find me spacing out to Queen while I look for new things to obsess with.