This is a must read if you are applying for TV/Film this year

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But remember - you do not need to study a media related course to get in or on in TV or Film. It is often much better not to!

Advice on choosing a film or TV course

With so many TV and film courses to choose from it can be difficult to decide what and where to study. Pick the right course and it can provide you with the foundations for your dream career.
Creative Skillset, Bournemouth University, the National Film and Television School (NFTS), the University for the Creative Arts (UCA), the University of Westminster and the BKSTS (the British Kinematograph, Sound and Television Society) share some of their tips when it comes to finding the best course.


Previous experience
Make sure you get experience of some kind before applying to a course - either by making a film (this can also be a creative video or short) yourself or through a relevant work placement. In your application’s personal statement you will need to show clear commitment to your chosen career. You wouldn’t get an interview for a job in TV without some experience, and you would similarly be unlikely to be offered a place on a good course without being about to clearly demonstrate that you really want it.

Where do your talents lie?
Play to your own strengths and think about what you are good at, both academically and beyond. Ask your friends and teachers for advice on where they think your talents lie.

Get a good range of qualifications such as maths and English, but also humanities and/or science. There’s no perfect combination of qualifications for admission though as there are so many roles within the industry that each draw on different strengths. Media studies might seem essential, however, it isn’t (but it can come in handy).

It's crucial you consider the length of the course and financial implications, says Petra Coveney from the National Film and Television School (NFTS): "It’s important to pick a course that you can commit to and complete. Assess how much time you can dedicate to training (part-time or full time study) and how much you can afford before deciding whether to opt for a short course (anything from two days to one month), a diploma course (usually 12 months), a certificate course (typically 2-3 months), a three year BA or an postgraduate MA (two years)."

Employers are not only looking for people with the right skills, but also for enthusiasm. If you are passionate about your subject then you are more likely to work harder, achieve more and enjoy your time studying.

Hidden costs
For some technology-based courses, specialist equipment may not be provided – adding hidden costs to your course fees and living costs.

If you’re planning on studying TV
Ask yourself if you actually watch a lot of television. Do you stop and think about how a programme is put together? If the answer is no to either, then are you sure you really want to study TV?

You should ask yourself what job you eventually want to do, says Creative Skillset: "You might want to work in the creative industries but do you know all the different types of jobs out there? There might be roles you hadn’t considered before so research what they are before choosing. Our website has a list of job profiles, including information on the skills and qualifications needed to do the job which may help you to choose the perfect course. It may also be worth looking at the kind of jobs that employers find difficult to fill and look for a course that will give you the skills that are needed to do those roles."

Image (copyright: NFTS)


Practical or theory?
Look for a film and television course with good academic standards as well as a strong production component. You’ll be going into a world where your ability to communicate at an intelligent and creative level is just as important as your ability to work in a team and show off your technical accomplishments.

Is the course up-to-date?
Find out more about the course content. How much time will you spend on practical training? Is the course up-to-date with industry advances? Does the department have the latest technology and kit?

How will the course change you?
Think about how the course might change you as a person. You are not just looking to learn a few technical skills - you can do that by watching YouTube videos. You should look to engage with an intellectual community that will excite you, and more importantly, challenge you.

Partnership courses
These often offer work experience at their film and TV studios, scholarships and even a job at the end of the course.

Underlying philosophies
Even though courses might look quite similar on their websites, their underlying philosophies can be quite different. Some courses emphasise individual creative expression, while others are more focused on teamwork and the acquisition of skills, knowledge and experience in different disciplines – for instance lighting, sound, directing and so on. Make sure that you choose the emphasis that suits you.

Course results
Look at the course’s results, its festival entries, competition wins, industry and employment links – where did the graduates end up working?

You should be wary of the word 'studies' in the course: "Obviously, if you are looking for an employment or 'industry focused' course, with an ambition to forge a career in the moving image industries, our advice is that you should be wary of the whole raft of courses that contain the word ‘studies’ in their title. These courses are often far more concerned with critical, cultural and social studies than preparing you for professional production and post-production work." Says Mark Trompeteler from the BKSTS.

Range of specialisms
You should think about what the course offers you in terms of opportunities to make different kinds of projects (would you be making documentaries as well as fiction?) and to take on different kinds of specialist roles. Do they teach a good range of specialisms? For example producing, screenwriting, directing, camera and lighting, sound design, production design, editing and post-production? Is there a theory element which will introduce you to a range of films and film history?
It is important to get a feel for the amount of teaching time, and access to a sufficient amount of equipment for the number of students. Research exactly how much contact there is between the course and industry, and that work placements are available. Remember a lot of the publicity material you will see is in fact just that - publicity material.

How early do you want to specialise in your area of work? Is graduating in a very specific specialism and degree title something that you really want and is it necessary for your intended chosen path? Or might you be better suited to a course that is concerned with a wider range of skills and potential employment outcomes? Some courses will attempt to be a balance between these two structures with broad diagnostic production experience in the early stages of the course with opportunities to specialise, say, in the third year or in a post graduate year.

Image (copyright: NFTS)


Are there networking opportunities?
Good film and television schools will also offer networking opportunities because making contacts in the industry will help open doors to work.

Compare courses online
Can’t decide between courses? Then compare them online. You can look at official data on student satisfaction and jobs after studying on the Unistats website.

When choosing a film or television course it’s important to check the reputation of the school or college (who is it accredited by and how many of their graduates go on to get jobs in the industry) and that their courses are both practical (hands-on experience of making films or TV shows rather than just theory) and taught by leading professionals from the film and TV industry.

Claire Barwell, course leader of Film Production at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA), Farnham, stresses the importance of accreditation: "Does the course have good professional standing? Is it accredited by the BKSTS or has it been awarded a Creative Skillset tick? Do they have visiting professionals teaching and lecturing? Do they have good links with industry? This will help you to think about whether the course is teaching current practice or not, but it is even more important to think of university education as an opportunity to immerse yourself in a subject that you are really passionate about."

The tutors
Research who the tutors are – do they have recent industry experience that will ensure their teaching is cutting edge and relevant? Also, look for the tutors’ names on IMDB, which lists professionals’ biogs and credits.

Read up on previous students’ experiences on the course. Have those that have previously graduated managed to secure work within the industry? Think also about people whose work you admire and investigate where they studied – if you want a similar career, why not look at where they started out?

You should find what graduates have gone on to do, says By Peter Hort, course director, BA Film and Television Production at the University of Westminster: "Find out what graduates of the courses you’re interested in have gone on to do, and how their films do at festivals. The network of graduates around more established courses can be an invaluable boost to your chances of finding work, and the range of visiting professionals that contribute to the course is a good indicator of how connected it is to the professional world. And of course, your fellow students could be your collaborators for many years to come, so think about choosing a course that will attract like-minded people."

The facilities
Don’t forget to check the facilities; does the school have its own film and TV studios and is the equipment up to scratch? Employers hire people trained to use current technology.

Industry trends
Industry trends now mean that there is a greater need for entry level employees to have a good understanding of digital moving image systems, data and workflow issues and some basic digital engineering systems knowledge. Traditional film school content might sound ideal but the needs of industry are getting far more digitally focused alongside all the creativity.

Open days
Going to an open day is imperative says Ashley Woodfall, lecturer at The Media School, Bournemouth University: "You should visit any institution you might plan to apply to. Go to an open day. Speak to the lecturers. Quiz them. Ask them for guidance. Definitely talk with current students, and, if at all possible, ask people out there in the industry. You will find a lot of TV practitioners tend to have come from just a few courses – there is a reason for this."

When choosing a course you should also consider if you feel comfortable in the environment – would you be happy there?
Some of the most reputatable courses receive many applicants and entry is competitive. Sometimes the atmosphere on open days isn’t as attentive and warm as you may like. Reassure yourself, before applying, by chatting to students on the course, and asking them about the quality of their on-course experience.

The Knowledge would like to thank the BKSTS, University of Westminster, the University for the Creative Arts, the National Film and Television School, Bournemouth University and Creative Skillset for their insight and industry expertise. For further details about their courses, please click on each organisation.

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