Movie Director: Overview of Film School Programs and the Movie Business

Sep 12, 2019

Aspiring movie directors are typically expected to complete a bachelor's or master's degree in fine arts. Certificate and associate's degree programs are also available.

Essential Information

Going to film school and obtaining training and a degree in film directing can be helpful for those wishing to enter the movie business. There are many schools that offer certificates and degree programs in film and video production and/or directing.

Required Education Bachelor's or Master of Fine Arts (BFA or MFA) typically expected
Other Requirements Prior experience on a film set
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 5% for producers and directors*
Median Salary (2018) $71,680 for producers and directors*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Film School Programs

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs in filmmaking may be offered by art or film schools or by universities and 2- and 4-year colleges with film departments; some may be offered through a school's continuing education department. Though they generally provide college credit, most filmmaking certificate programs are not designed to matriculate students into a degree program. These programs can take 1-4 years to complete, depending on the school and program.

Coursework for a certificate program in filmmaking often includes instruction in a variety of areas of filmmaking, from script development, cinematography and film editing to audio recording and directing. Some are designed to allow students to focus on a particular area of interest, such as screenwriting, producing or directing. At the end of the program, students receive a certificate that attests to their knowledge and skills in filmmaking.

Associate's Degree Programs

Associate's degree programs offer an overview of all of the areas of film production and prepare students to go on to bachelor's degrees in film production or take entry-level jobs in the film industry. These programs may be completed in two years and contain general education coursework along with courses in basic film production, screen writing, digital film editing, cinematography, producing and directing.

Bachelor of Fine Arts Programs

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) programs in film production may be highly competitive, and schools try to select talented students based on portfolios. Some programs offer a concentration or several courses in directing, in which students learn such topics as camera angles and movement, framing and composition and blocking of actors.

Along with general education coursework, some BFA filmmaking programs require students to complete a fine arts concentration in courses such as drawing and design. Study of the basic techniques of film production may be accompanied by coursework in film history, screenwriting and marketing. Students work on a number of short films, learning about all of the processes of filmmaking from start to finish. A final film project is usually required.

Master of Fine Arts Programs

To be accepted into a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program in filmmaking or film directing often requires submission of a portfolio, through which the applicant receives close artistic review of his or her background and understanding of film fundamentals. Most MFA programs take three years to complete and involve intensive production work, advanced training and a focus on production of student work. Students generally are required to produce a final thesis project consisting of a 30-minute film.

Career Opportunities in the Movie Business

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the directing and production industry will have average growth throughout the 2018-2028 decade ( The industry is characteristically highly competitive, and in most cases, jobs offer low pay, long hours and long waits between jobs. However, the most successful movie directors have significantly higher earnings.

The BLS noted that there may be more opportunities for movie directors and producers due to an increased demand for U.S. films overseas. An expanding cable TV market and new media outlets influenced by the Internet and mobile technologies, along with an increase in attendance of independent films and major releases, was expected to fuel the need for workers in this industry.

With 5% job growth projected through 2028, there should be opportunities working in the film industry for those who complete post-secondary studies in fine arts. Candidates can also gain experience through internships with television and movie studios.

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