Film schools are highly competitive. When it comes to how to apply to film school, you need to write a winning application that can cut through the competition and showcase your potential.
Writing a winning application for a prestigious film school degree programme can be challenging, but with proper preparation, effort and some know-how, you can craft a compelling application that will capture the attention of the school’s admissions team. Here are some tips on how to apply to film school.
How to Apply to Film School
Research the film school properly
Before you begin writing your application, research the film school you are applying to, the details of how to apply and exactly what you need to submit plenty of time before you apply to film school.
Every film school is different in its outlook, its approach and its values. Every admissions process will also have its own requirements. Take the time to research each option thoroughly.
Understand the programmes they offer, the teaching staff, the course curriculum, facilities and resources available to students, and check that their values and mission resonate with you. If your values align, you are far more likely to succeed at the school and this will help you tailor your application to fit with specific needs and expectations of the school you are applying to.
If you can, before you apply to film school, try to visit the film school in person. Attend an Open Day or another event, this will really help to boost your understanding of the school and their culture, as well as offer you the chance to ask any questions and build a rapport with admissions officers.
When it comes to how to apply to film school, you will be thoroughly prepared and this will help you to craft a winning application, full of details and personality.
Highlight your passion and dedication
Film schools hope to find students who are passionate and truly dedicated to the craft. You will need to demonstrate your passion for filmmaking and explain how you have pursued this passion in the past when you apply to film school.
Describing a passion for film and filmmaking can only take you so far. To apply to a competitive or prestigious film school you will need to demonstrate that you have lived out this passion through previous experience.
Make sure to share the details of any films or videos you have produced, film festivals you have attended, or any other related activities. If you haven’t yet got experience of these things, consider how you can start to grow your experience. Volunteer at a film festival, gain experience on a film set, or attend short filmmaking courses.
With our students at Sparks Film School, we often look at how to apply to film school and support our students to develop their applications. We encourage students to illustrate their passion through their experiences of filmmaking since childhood.
For example, “I first started filmmaking from the age of 7. I have been involved in youth filmmaking classes for the last ten years. In that time, I’ve produced over 50 short films. My favourite films I have produced are… because of how they… You can find links to these films here…” This is a lot more compelling than, “Film Studies was my favourite A-Level.”
If you can have work to share, that will go a long way to demonstrate your passion, dedicated and commitment. It takes a lot of work to produce a short film, so film schools appreciate when you can show your experience through portfolio examples.
Emphasise your unique perspective and voice
Most film schools value diversity of thought and perspective, they are hoping to find students who can tell unique stories and show exceptional creativity.
When you apply to film school, find opportunities to highlight your unique point of view and your voice as a filmmaker in your application. What do you care about? What stories are you drawn towards? How can your point of view make the world a better place?
Share your personal experiences, background, and interests that contribute to your perspective, and explain how this perspective will enrich the film school community. Try to be specific and give plenty of examples.
Explain why you want to attend this particular film school
When you apply to film school, it is a good idea to show how you have researched the film school and explain why you are a good match for their programme.
Mention their values and how they align with your personal values and your hopes for your career within filmmaking. Highlight any specific courses, modules or staff members that interest you, and describe how the programme will help you achieve your goals.
Make sure to be specific with this and tailor each application to the film school you are applying to. Whilst there are a lot of similarities across many schools and programmes, each one prides themselves on their points of difference. Including this when you apply to film school will show that you have fully engaged with the process.
Show your skills and potential
Film schools ultimately want students who have the potential to succeed in the industry. To properly showcase your skills and potential, you’ll need to get specific and demonstrate some understanding of how the film industry when you apply to film school.
Which disciplines or production areas do you hope to go into? What industry-specific skills do you already have and which skills are you hoping to further develop? How will attending film school help you to do this?
You don’t need to have all the skills right now, but what will help you to write a winning application is if you can demonstrate an awareness of how you expect their programme will help you to develop as a filmmaker.
Make the Most of the Personal Essay/Personal Statement
The personal statement section of any application is your opportunity to emphasise your strengths, your potential and your unique point of view.
Be authentic and genuine. Don’t to present yourself as someone you’re not, or don’t write what you think they might want to read. Focus on your skills, your potential and your personal interests and experience. They want to hear from you.
Be as specific and detailed as possible. Use specific examples and details to illustrate your points. For example, if you’re talking about a film that inspired you, describe in detail what it was about the film that resonated with you and how it has influenced your approach to filmmaking.
Follow the application guidelines
We hear from admissions teams all the time how silly mistakes can trip applicants up.
When a school receives hundreds or thousands of applications for just a handful of places, any applications with errors – no matter how small – can be easily discarded from consideration. Don’t fall into this trap.
Take the time to carefully follow the application guidelines and requirements provided by the film school in their application materials. Submit all required documents, such as certificates, grades, any transcripts, references, and portfolio materials, on time and in the correct format.
Admissions officers are busy and they will not spend any time re-downloading or converting any supporting materials sent in the incorrect format; they need to be able to access them (and likely share them with others) easily and without having to contact you. When you apply to film school, make sure you have followed all the guidelines and make sure everything you send across is accessible and in the requested format.
Overall, it will always be competitive when you apply to film school and you might not get a place the first time you apply. Don’t be deterred if this is the case, often experience is the most highly valued attribute and often many students attend film school as mature students, rather than straight from school.
Remember, admissions officers are looking for applicants who demonstrate a combination of passion, creativity, skills, and potential, as well as a good fit with the programme and school culture. By following this advice, you can craft a winning application when you apply to film school.
About Sparks Film School
Sparks is a youth film school for young filmmakers aged 5-18, with film school locations around the UK.
We support young filmmakers to develop their talents, skills and creativity. We have worked with over 10,000 young filmmakers and have helped many young filmmakers progress to prestigious film schools and start careers within the film industry.