This story about the best international film schools first appeared in the College Issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
AUSTRALIAN FILM, TELEVISION AND RADIO SCHOOL
“AFTRS was perfect because it was…practical,” says songwriter Christine Kirkwood, who graduated from Australia’s national screen and broadcast school after a six-month government program to train women in filmmaking. Her fellow alums include Gillian Armstrong and Phillip Noyce, who were in the school’s first graduating class in 1973, as well as Jane Campion, Cate Shortland and cinematographer Andrew Lesnie. Located near the Fox Studios in Sydney, the campus includes studios, post-production facilities and an extensive library.
AFTRS has a robust First Nations and Outreach program for indigenous students, and in early 2023 a new partnership with Industrial Light & Magic will allow the school to begin offering a two-semester Graduate Diploma in Visual Effects program. Other new offerings include a Screen Warriors program that will recruit, train and mentor military veterans who want to break into the film and television industry. 2018 graduate Pariya Taherzadeh, a successful podcaster, has launched a new $20,000 scholarship for aspiring audio storytellers.
BEIJING FILM ACADEMY
Given the current political climate, U.S. students might not be keen on heading to China to study film, even if that country is one of the world’s biggest markets. And even aspiring filmmakers inside China might balk at being told, as they were last year, that their chief goal should be to make work that would lead to “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people.” Still, more than 40,000 students typically apply for 400 to 500 spots; international students can also apply for a film production program conducted entirely in English.
The 71-year-old school’s graduates have included Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Jia Zhangke and Ai Weiwei. (Even dissident artists go there!) The largest institution for film and television production in Asia, the academy consists of nine different schools and eight departments, including film and television technology, film directing, film theory, screenwriting and cinema studies and sound recording.
CENTRO DE CAPACITACIÓN CINEMATOGRÁFICA
Established by Mexico’s National Council for Culture and Arts in 1975, with iconoclastic Spanish-Mexican director Luis Buñuel as its honorary president, the CCC has educated cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (“Amores Perros, “”Brokeback Mountain” and “The Irishman”) and director Carlos Carrera (“The Crime of Padre Amaro”), among others. The school’s programs are Cinematographic Screenwriting and Film and Audiovisual Production, which are both two-year, four-semester programs; General Cinema Studies, a four-and-a-half-year, nine-semester program; and Academic Extension, which offers courses and workshops for anyone interested in film. The Opera Prima project allows students, chosen through an in-school competition, to produce their first feature films with support provided by the school and other students involved in the productions.
CCC is one of the two major Mexican film schools, the other being the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos, whose students have included director Alfonso Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.
CENTRO SPERIMENTALA DI CINEMATOGRAFIA
The alumni from the oldest film school in Western Europe is a who’s who of Italian cinema: directors Michelangelo Antonioni, Marco Bellocchio and Paolo Virzì, cinematographers Néstor Almendros and Vittorio Storaro and actors Claudia Cardinale, Sophia Loren, Francesca Neri and Domenico Modugno. The school was founded in 1935 by Benito Mussolini’s head of cinema, Luigi Freddi, and continues to be financed by the Italian government.
The school, which has numerous facilities throughout Italy, presented three world-premiere restorations at this year’s Venice Film Festival, with two short films from CSC students in competition in the International Critics Week section. In September, the school signed an agreement with the Veneto Region and the Veneto Film Commission to build a laboratory for immersive arts training in Venice. The CSC says the lab will be the first training center for VR and the immersive arts in Europe. A pilot program will take place in the summer of 2023 on the island of San Servolo, with small classes potentially beginning next September.
ECAM (ESCUELA DE CINEMATOGRAFÍA Y DEL AUDIOVISUAL DE LA COMUNIDAD DE MADRID)
ECAM, which in English is known as the Madrid Film School, says that 72% of its approximately 500 students get a job in the industry after completing their studies; those 500 students are taught by about 400 film, TV and advertising professionals (many on a part-time basis). The school offers three-year programs with undergraduate degrees in cinematography with a variety of majors, and one-year bachelor’s degree in cinematography programs in costume design, creative direction in branded content, VFX monitoring, executive production and film criticism, among others.
A few years ago, ECAM launched The Screen, a program designed, according to the school, “to promote the production of feature films, support emerging talent and invigorate the audiovisual fabric.” The Screen’s projects include The Incubator, which chooses five student projects per year and connects the students with professionals in the European film industry. Past films from The Incubator have premiered at the Berlin, Locarno and San Sebastian film festivals and on Netflix.
LA FÉMIS (ÉCOLE NATIONALE SUPÉRIEURE DES MÉTIERS DE L’IMAGE ET DU SON)
Here’s a school that’s so hard to get into that a feature documentary was made about the grueling admissions process: Claire Simon’s 2019 doc “The Competition,” which went behind the scenes of the highly selective interviews and exercises that narrow down hundreds of applicants to the lucky 3% who are accepted into Paris’ temple of cinema education. Of course, the prospective students have good reason to jump through all those hoops, because the roster of former students at La Fémis (and its predecessor, IDHEC) includes Costa-Gavras, Claire Denis, Louis Malle, Jean-Jacques Annaud, François Ozon, Alain Resnais, Céline Sciamma and Julia Ducournau, among many others.
The La Fémis website proudly says that its students produce “more than 100 short films” each year, and with Gallic pride insists, “More than simple exercises, these films are real works.” It backs up that statement by listing every film festival appearance for its student films — and so far this year, class projects have been booked 122 times at festivals in 30 different countries.
FILM AND TELEVISION INSTITUTE OF INDIA
“How do you teach filmmaking, or its component parts?” asks Shekhar Kapur, the director of “Bandit Queen,” “Elizabeth,” the upcoming romantic comedy “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” and the chairman of FTII, in a message on the school’s website. “The answer is simple. You don’t teach. You simply provoke the artist in the student.”
Instructors who do that provoking on the campus in Kolkata have included David Lean and Satyajit Ray. This year, the school hosted a centenary tribute to Ray, the Indian Center for Cultural Relations’ Gen-Next Democracy Delegation, and became a “knowledge partner” to help Swami Ramanand Teerth Marathwada University and University of Ladakh launch courses in film and television. Current courses include a Basic Course in Smartphone Filmmaking.
Founded in 1991 in southwest Germany, Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg occupies two sites in the city of Ludwigsburg. One contains the Filmakademie and its highly regarded animation and visual-effects programs at the Animation Institute, while the other houses the Academy of Performing Arts Baden-Württemberg and, in conjunction with Paris’ Le Fémis, the Atelier Ludwigsburg-Paris. “Creativity takes place particularly in cross-border exchange and in the spaces in between that arise,” FABW director Thomas Schadt said in a ceremony at the start of the 2022-2023 academic year.
The school does extensive collaborations with international schools, including this year with the Universidad de Valparaíso in Chile and Al-Quds University in the West Bank. FABW is also one of five German film schools that launched a 2018 initiative to empower women in the film industry, institute a zero-tolerance principle for discrimination and sexualized violence, and create awareness of gender representation in media.
The Filmakademie Wien, or Vienna Film Academy, is also the Institute for Film and Television of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, a school widely considered one of the world’s greatest for music. The film program consists of a three-year program that leads to a bachelor of arts degree in one of five disciplines (screenwriting and dramaturgy, camera technology and cinematography, producing, directing, and editing) and a two-year master of arts program. Students are taught together for the first three semesters before moving into their areas of specialization.
Little Joe director Jessica Hausner is the latest addition to a directing faculty that has also included Michael Haneke. Students produce about 80 short, medium-length and feature-length films each year, with Haneke’s student Patrick Vollrath winning a Student Academy Award and landing an Oscar nomination in 2016 for “Everything Will Be Okay.”
ŁÓDŹ FILM SCHOOL
The Polish National film School in Łódź is separated into four departments: Film and Television Directing, Direction of Photography and Television Production, Acting, and Film Art Organization. Most of them are five-year programs, but a part-time curriculum is also available, though geared mostly to local students who plan to go to work in the Polish film and TV industries.
During the post-World War II period in Poland, the Łódź Film School became a cultural center for artists and students who didn’t follow the Communist Party line. Initially split into one school for actors and another for filmmakers, it merged in 1958. The school also produced Oscar winners in directors Roman Polanski, Andrzej Wadja and Zbiegniew Rybczynski.
LONDON FILM SCHOOL
The UK’s oldest film school is located in a former brewery in Covent Garden and caters to a student body that largely comes from outside the U.K. Alumni include Michael Mann, Mike Leigh, Ann Hui, Danny Huston and Duncan Jones. It offers postgraduate degrees, including an M.A. in all aspects of filmmaking, an M.A. in screenwriting, an M.A. in international film business and a Ph.D in Film by Practice, a partnership with the University of Exeter College of Humanities that allows students to “integrate their technical and practical skills into a more advanced cultural, aesthetic and critical context.”
During the summer of 2021, the school joined forces with The Yard Covent Garden to host outdoor screenings of curated films from LFS students and alumni. And this year, the school also joined the National Saturday Club to let 13- to 16-year-olds watch, discuss and make films at LFS on Saturday mornings from October through March.
NATIONAL FILM AND TELEVISION SCHOOL
No film school won more Student Academy Awards in the (now-defunct) international categories than the National Film and Television School, and no other school was honored with a BAFTA award for Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema. The 51-year-old school outside London has a roster of former students that includes directors Julien Temple, Terence Davies and Lynne Ramsay, animator Nick Park, cinematographer Roger Deakins, composer Dario Marianelli, documentarian Nick Broomfield and writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns. This year, grad Aneil Karia won the Oscar for his short film “The Long Goodbye” while seven student projects made BAFTA’s Student Nominations shortlist and another seven won at the RTS Student Television Awards.
Apart from its main studio complex in Beaconsfield, which was modernized and got two new buildings in 2017, the school has campuses in Cardiff, Glasgow and Leeds. New offerings this year include the Virtual Production Certificate Programme, co-sponsored by WB Discovery Access and Screen Spotlight; a 10-month short-film incubator, Disney Imagine UK; the Prime Video Craft Academy, which offers 25 paid internships; new funding for sports and live-events production; and new scholarships for female location sound recorders and black British women cinematographers, as well as a pair of scholarships supported by UK Cinema Association.
NATIONAL FILM SCHOOL OF DENMARK
The National Film School of Denmark sits in Copenhagen harbor on an island of culture: It’s next to the Rhythmic Music Conservatory and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation on the island of Frederiksholm. The school’s eight programs—script writing, sound, editing, fiction directing, documentary directing, games directing and animation — are administered by 50 employees and a number of guest instructors for a student body of about 100.
Among the former students who have attended the school’s mostly four-year programs are “Another Round” director and co-writer Thomas Vinterberg and co-writer Tobias Lindholm (director of the current “The Good Nurse”); Susanne Bier, whose “In a Better World” and “The Night Manager” won an Oscar and two Emmys, respectively; “An Education” and “The Kindness of Strangers” director Lone Scherfig; Anthony Dod Mantle, who won the cinematography Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire;” and two of Denmark’s most notable directors, Bille August (“Pelle the Conqueror”) and Lars von Trier (“Antichrist”).
PRAGUE FILM SCHOOL
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
The other major film school in Prague, FAMU, is designed for Czech-speaking students, but the Prague Film School is geared for international students with specialized studies in screenwriting, directing, cinematography and postproduction, as well as programs in film acting and documentary. The basic programs occupy a single year of total immersion in filmmaking, although second-year and semester programs are also available. The school promises to give students “material for a show reel compiled from up to 30 short films, commercials and music videos from one minute to 30 minutes in length.”
The Prague Film School student body consists of about 100 students, who the school says typically come from 30 to 35 different countries. All classes are taught in English.
TORONTO METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY (FORMERLY RYERSON UNIVERSITY)
The school now known as Toronto Met or TMU came onto the film-school map as Ryerson University. It used variations on that name from its founding in the 1940s until April 2022, when the name changed after student and faculty protests over namesake Egerton Ryerson’s involvement in the Canadian government’s former program to take indigenous children away from their parents and put them in boarding schools to “assimilate” them into mainstream Canadian culture. In addition to the name change, the university is now early in a 10-year “Campus Master Plan” of new building, which will also reconfigure existing spaces to “embrace reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.”
The film and media schools operate within TMU’s Creative School, a collection of nine schools that offer undergraduate degrees in acting, film, media production, new media and sports media, and graduate degrees in communication and culture, digital media, documentary media, scriptwriting and story design and many others. The school also has media hubs in the U.K., the U.S.A., Italy and Egypt.
Beginning with a handful of schools in Australia in 1976, SAE is a private for-profit college that now runs 50 institutes in more than 20 countries around the world, including multiple ones in the United States. Within that worldwide group of schools, the Zurich campus is particularly known for its media programs, making it the one SAE school that receives consistent acclaim.
Programs in Zurich include audio and music production, film and animation, games and programming, marketing and promotion and web and coding. The Film & Animation program is divided into film production, visual FX & 3D animation and game art & 3D animation. In addition to classes, the school offers a wide array of workshops, from sound mixing to photography to the metaverse.
STOCKHOLM FILM SCHOOL
This 38-year-old school uses what it calls “The Stockholm Method,” by which it means instruction that “combines hybrid classes with high-intensity projects and master-apprentice training.” It offers a one-year International Film Program, with filmmaking fundamentals in the first semester and more in-depth study in the second covering cinematography, directing, editing, film production, script writing and sound. Additional second-year programs are also available for directing and cinematography students, as are intensive 10-week courses in acting, film production and screenwriting. This year, the school also announced new Stockholm Film School online classes.
Directors Espen Sandberg and Joachim Rønning (“Kon-Tiki,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”) and Oscar-winning cinematographer Linus Sandgren (“La La Land,””No Time to Die”) are among the former students at the school.
STEVE TISCH SCHOOL OF FILM AND TELEVISION AT TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
There’s more than one Tisch in the film-school world. In 2015, 33 years after NYU’s school of the arts was named after Laurence A. and Preston Robert Tisch, producer and football executive
Steve Tisch (Preston’s son) gave a donation that resulted in the film school at Tel Aviv University being renamed the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television. The school, which is part of the largest university in Israel and the largest Jewish university in the world, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in what it calls the Theoretical Track, the Production Track, the Scriptwriting Track and the Digital Media Track, as well as a recent addition, the MFA in documentary film. In addition to the practical fields, its areas of specialization include cultural studies.
Graduates include Omri Shenhar and Alon Aranya, co-creators of the TV series T”ehran;” Ari Folman, director of “Waltz With Bashir” and “Where Is Anne Frank;” documentary director Dror Moreh (“The Gatekeepers”); and “The Affair” co-creator and In Treatment director Hagai Levi, among others.
UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
Consistently ranked with Toronto Metropolitan as the two best film and media schools in Canada, the University of British Columbia has been around since 1915, though obviously not teaching film that long. Its four-year program in film production encompasses film studies and history in the first year; directing, writing and production in the second; sound and postproduction in the third; and advanced production, cinematography and documentary in the fourth. The film studies program goes in depth with Canadian, Asian, Hollywood and cult cinema, along with concentrated seminars in the final two years.
The school’s Visual Resources Center has recently added a film collection to its enormous number of slides, videos, DVDs and digital images. Class sizes are small, and students can also take courses from UBC’s theater and creative writing programs. Related programs are offered at a second campus in the Okanagan region of southern British Columbia.
UNIVERSITY OF TELEVISION AND FILM MUNICH (HOCHSCHULE FÜR FERNSEHEN UND FILM MÜNCHEN)
Established in 1966 by the Bavarian government, this school teaches all aspects of filmmaking to a group of about 350 students in seven different degree programs that fit under the umbrellas of media studies and technology; every student must take courses in both of those categories.
This Bavarian university began in a villa and moved to a former bed-spring factory before its move in 2011 to a complex in Munich’s museum district. Graduates include Wim Wenders (“Paris, Texas”), Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day”), Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (“The Lives of Others”) and Maren Ade (“Toni Erdmann”). This year, the university won two Student Academy Awards, matching NYU for the most of any school.
VANCOUVER FILM SCHOOL
With eight campuses in downtown Vancouver totaling 150,000 square feet, the Vancouver Film School has room for 15 different one-year programs that include film production, art and design, digital design, game design, makeup design and sound design, writing, VR/AR and three programs devoted to animation and two to acting. By the school’s count, 375 VFS alumni had credits on projects that were nominated for Emmys in 2022.
Alumni include District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, “Arrow” star Emily Bett Rickards and Kevin Smith, who recently created the Kevin Smith Scholarships in acting, writing and film production. Additional financial aid opportunities created in 2022 include a $150,000 “Women in Game Design” scholarship fund created through a partnership with the Coalition, Blackbird Interactive and A Thinking Ape, and a $200,000 Indigenous Scholarship in Video Games fund.
VICTORIA UNIVERSITY OF WELLINGTON
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND
This 124-year-old research university offers degrees in more than 100 undergraduate subjects alone, all of which are open to first-year students. And while it’s best known internationally for law, it also has departments for film, game design, media design, media studies and animation & visual effects. (It can’t hurt that visual effects students are in the same neighborhood as Peter Jackson’s WETA FX.)
Former students include Taika Waititi, Sam Neill, Jane Campion, Fran Walsh and Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie—along with prime ministers of both New Zealand and Samoa, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, a couple of chief justices and a lot of members of parliament.