Best Film Schools in California – 2020 Review

Filmmaking is a creative pursuit where you get to experiment with your creative potential in as many dimensions as you wish.

However, it can be as technical as it is creative. Hence, you need to pick a good school for yourself to learn all the technical skills with mastery.

And if you’re based in California, then you can definitely find yourself confused about which one to go for. To help you out, we’ve reviewed our top picks!

Job Outlook in California After Film School

The film industry is booming right now and growing exponentially. This is because these days, content consumption is increasing exponentially. Most students in the filmmaking departments of various colleges don’t even have a clear idea of what they want to be in the future. They aspire to create their own profession. To boomers, it might sound too ambitious, but it is still the reality of the filmmaking industry right now.

The job prospects for filmmaking graduates are great. There is a huge demand that is yet to be met. Furthermore, independent creators are also gaining popularity, which has encouraged more and more individuals to be their own boss. In short, it is the perfect time to be a filmmaker in the US.

The initial salaries of a filmmaker can be between $12,700 and $41,000 per year. Where you fall in this range mainly depends on your skills. It might not look like a lot, but the salaries in this field also rise exponentially with your skills, and you might end up earning twice or thrice your initial salary in no time. The key is to polish your skills and build your portfolio properly.

Quick Take - Best Film Schools in California

Before we dive into our review, here are the best film schools in California:

  1. University of California Los Angeles
  2. University of Southern California
  3. San Francisco Art Institute

List of the Top Film Schools in California

There are many film schools in California, and all of them have much to offer. However, you need to understand which schools can actually provide you with what you need. Hence, we have shortlisted some top film schools to help find the best one. 

School Info

  • Average tuition cost: $34,620
  • Number of years for degree, Type of degree: 4-year, Bachelors of Arts
  • Number of students: 44,947
  • Student:Teacher ratio: 18:1

Our Review of the Program

UCLA is the best public university in the US., and they offer extensive courses. Their Film and Television course is no different. They take a well-balanced practical and theoretical approach to teach their students valuable skills and knowledge.

The Film course is divided into three main disciplines: cinema and media studies, production and film, and television craft. These three disciplines are divided carefully into the four years that the students will be studying there to form their solid base without overburdening them with knowledge and work.

Students’ interest is also a top priority of the institution and instructors because they believe that creativity and skill come when an individual feels free and liberated. At UCLA, the theory is used to transfer concepts to the students, and the practice is then used to let the students experiment and learn.

Students are also given access to state-of-the-art resources and tools. They also have exclusive access to the UCLA Film and Television Archive. It is the largest collection of moving images that a university owns. UCLA Alumni are also very established in their field and supportive. They engage with the alumnus and teach them valuable lessons that come from working in the field.

Best Film School in Los Angeles, CA:
University of Southern California

School Info

  • Average tuition cost: $57,256
  • Number of years for degree, Type of degree: 3-year, Bachelors of Arts
  • Number of students: 44,000
  • Student:Teacher ratio: 9:1

Our Review of the Program

There is content everywhere. We are almost in front of one screen or the other, and we all need compelling content to keep us entertained. At USC, the faculty understands this, and hence they have designed their courses to be creative, trendy, in-demand, and, more than anything, compelling.

You are taught holistically, keeping in mind that every content can go on a screen of any size. It can be a cinema, TV, laptop or even a small 4-inch phone. Students are given access to the most advanced tools and editing software. They are also taught the newest and most advanced techniques that have innovated their profession.

At USC, diversity is promoted, and students from all over the world are welcomed. This provides all of them with a rich cultural and professional environment where they can learn from each other.

USC is an expensive institute, and we all know loans are not feasible most of the time. Hence, the culture of providing students with need and merit-based scholarships came into being here. Different kinds of scholarships are provided to different students. All students are eligible for production finishing funds. However, some are also provided with merit-based scholarships for directing, writing, editing, games, interactive media, cinema, etc.

Best Film School in San Francisco, CA:
San Francisco Art Institute

School Info

  • Average tuition cost: $46,534
  • Number of years for degree, Type of degree: 12-20 months, Professional Certificate
  • Number of students: 680
  • Student:Teacher ratio: 9:1

Our Review of the Program

At SFAI, film making, and production processes are studied and taught in as much depth as possible. Students are taught a wide range of film genres. They learn a mix of experimental, documentary, animation, narrative, and other hybrid forms. A significant amount of focus is also placed on the post-production process because we all know that there is no film without proper editing.

The programs are highly flexible, and the curriculum is ever-changing. As advancements take place in the field, the curriculum is adjusted accordingly, so the students always learn the most in-demand skills. Students are also expected and encouraged to be creative, think outside the box, and experiment with different mediums and parts of production.

Students are provided with a wide range of tools and equipment which they utilize to create different kinds of creative work. They create their projects in 16 mm, Super 8, DV, and high definition. A unique thing about SFAI is that they allow their students to take the expensive tools off-campus so students can explore their potential in unique settings.

Students also have access to 24-hour private suites for editing. They have a sound recording suite, production studio, 2.1 mix studio, digital editing suites, and other facilities all on-campus.

Best Film School in San Jose, CA:
San Jose State University

School Info

  • Average tuition cost: $29,193
  • Number of years for degree, Type of degree: 4-year, Bachelors of Art
  • Number of students: 33,282
  • Student:Teacher ratio: 26:1

Our Review of the Program

SJSU has a Radio-TV-Film program, which, as the name suggests, covers a wide range of media channels. As a student of this program, you will have the option to explore various media channels and find your own personal ideal channel. Along with the production processes of radio, TV, and film, you will also learn about the history and research of them all.

SJSU, despite being a super old university, believes in freedom of expression and encourages its students to be as creative as possible. The faculty acknowledges that there is no right or wrong way of creating content. It usually depends on the consumer if he will like it or not.

Hence, students are not taught what to do, but they are rather asked to focus on trends that will give a direction to their creativity. Students then express themselves through performing, writing, and directing their works in their own way.

The department also owns a film studio called Spartan Film Studio. Through this platform, many feature films made by students, faculty, and staff find their way to the mass audiences. This also gives the students a taste of the professional procedures and requirements during a TV, radio, or film production.

Best Film School in Orange County, CA:
Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts

School Info

  • Average tuition cost: $23,464
  • Number of years for degree, Type of degree: 4-year, Bachelors of Fine Art
  • Number of students: 1,465
  • Student:Teacher ratio: 13:1

Our Review of the Program

Dodge College is a great film school ranked among the top ten film schools in the world and seven in the US. The college is unique in how it teaches film and media. It doesn’t just teach you how to produce a film or tell a story. It also teaches you how to sell, distribute, market, and finance that story. You will become a well-rounded cinematographer or producer who is a jack of all trades.

The faculty of Dodge College also stands out. There are many award-winning instructors. They are practicing professionals who work in the industry side by side. This gives students an opportunity to learn from the best industry professionals and keep their skills relevant to current times.

The bachelor's program teaches you all necessary foundational aspects of filmmaking along with allowing you to choose your preferred area of expertise. You will also be given state-of-the-art facilities to professionally develop your skills to the next level.

You are also given an opportunity in your final year to create your own feature film with the university's best tools and equipment. This helps you make your best work and enter the industry with an edge.

School Info

  • Average tuition cost: $49,276
  • Number of years for degree, Type of degree: 4-year, Bachelors of Fine Art
  • Number of students: 1,489
  • Student:Teacher ratio: 7:1

Our Review of the Program

CalArts is one of the world’s most amazing places to learn filmmaking. Students learn the innovative and constantly evolving practices of filmmaking. In addition, they discover their own personal style, and the faculty encourages students to always add their touch to their work. This helps them form their signatures. Moreover, it also helps their work standout from their peers.

The faculty consists of professional artists and technicians who have proved themselves in their field and are now ready to transfer their expertise and legacy to the new generation of filmmakers. They are generous when educating budding stars and teach the students with passion, which further stimulates students' interest in the learning process.

The students are provided with the topmost technologically-advanced facilities and equipment to make sure their skills are the most relevant in the industry.

CalArts Alumni are known to run their own shows. This is because the students are expected to make a film every year. This helps them get experience and polish their skills over the course of their degree, which ultimately prepares them to lead and not just follow. Producing a TV show for them is like making a few films at their institute – a piece of cake.

School Info

  • Average tuition cost: $48,522
  • Number of years for degree, Type of degree: 4-year, Bachelors of Art
  • Number of students: 9,295
  • Student:Teacher ratio: 10:1

Our Review of the Program

LMU is another addition to the list of top film schools in the country. It is listed among the top ten best film schools in the US. LMU promotes the spirit of collaboration in its students, and through this collaboration among students and mentors, a conducive learning environment is formed. In terms of the course, a close balance between theory and projects is formed.

Each student’s individual talent and potential are identified, and then through that, they are taught how to utilize the power of media and entertainment to get their message through to their audience.

Students are also made to understand their responsibility as a filmmaker to both enlighten and entertain their audience. They have a responsibility to make their content meaningful and representative of real-world issues. Critical thinking is also promoted among students so they can be the best judges of their own work and improve themselves.

LMU doesn’t have any ownership of the content that its students make, and the students have full control of their work. They can do whatever they want with it despite using LMU’s state-of-the-art facilities to create everything. They are free to commercialize their work.

Best Film Schools in California Comparison Table

We have already listed above some of the best film schools in California with the best facilities and faculty. Now it is your turn to make your decision and choose the best school for you. To make comparing schools easier for you, here’s a table summarizing all the important things:

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • 4-year, Bachelors of Arts
  • $34,620
  • Number of students: 44,947
View Latest Price →
  • 3-year, Bachelors of Arts
  • $57,256
  • Number of students: 44,000
View Latest Price →
  • 12-20 months, Professional Certificate
  • $46,534
  • Number of students: 680
View Latest Price →
  • 4-year, Bachelors of Art
  • $29,193
  • Number of students: 33,282
View Latest Price →
  • 4-year, Bachelors of Fine Art
  • $23,464
  • Number of students: 1,465
View Latest Price →
  • 4-year, Bachelors of Fine Art
  • $49,276
  • Number of students: 1,489
View Latest Price →
  • 4-year, Bachelors of Art
  • $48,522
  • Number of students: 9,295
View Latest Price →

Conclusion

There are many top-ranked schools in California, and a lot of them have state-of-the-art facilities and exceptional faculty. Among the top schools mentioned above, you can find your ideal school to launch your filmmaking career with the most relevant skills and knowledge that is backed by real experience.

People Also Ask

Filmmaking can be a very rewarding career, but it is also a very risky one, and pursuing it can be rather expensive. Hence, it is only natural that you weigh your options before entering a film school and ask questions to make such an important decision with certainty.

Is It Hard to Get Into the LA Film School?

Yes, it is extremely hard to get into the LA Film School. You need a GPA of at least 3.15, along with a high SAT score. More than this, your extracurriculars will also play a role in setting you apart. Hence, you need to be a well-rounded student who can manage theory with practice.

Is the Los Angeles Film School a College?

Yes, the Los Angeles Film School is also a college. It is a for-profit college that offers its students with bachelors and associate degrees. The majors of this school are, as the name suggests, mainly related to the entertainment industry only. Some programs include computer animation, filmmaking, graphic design, and entertainment, etc.

Why is Film School So Expensive?

Film school is especially expensive because of the facilities and tools that it provides you with. All equipment is the most advanced one available. Furthermore, to teach students filmmaking properly, all real-life environments and production facilities are created in schools, which adds up to the cost even more.

Other Film School Reviews 

Looking for film schools in other areas? Here are a few other reviews: