How to Handle Rejections from Film School


You didn’t get in. Now what?

First of all, you’re not alone. I’ve been there. If you want to read more about my personal experiences with rejection, I have a blog post on it. But what this article is going to focus on is the steps you can take now to either move on or improve your chances for reapplying in the future.

Start with taking a step back and a deep breath. A film school rejection, whether it’s for undergraduate or graduate studies, is not the end of your film career. There are many successful people with thriving film careers from Gaffers, to DPs, Screenwriters, Directors, Costume Designers and Editors and everything else who never attended any film program. Film school, whether it is Ivy League or Job Training is only one path you can take.

Reassess your goals. What did the process of applying teach you about yourself and the kind of stories you want to tell? Maybe it taught you about how you want to tell stories. Where do you see yourself ending up? Don’t only consider the role you want in film, director, editor, etc, but also the kind of films or TV. you want to make. Write it down. Be critical of yourself, what you want, and why. Why is film school part of your plans?

Do your research. Investigate people who have the kind of careers you want to emulate and go beyond celebrity filmmakers. What this means is, if you want to work in TV, look up who works on your favorite show. Everyone has an IMDB page and it’s a great place to start. If you admire a Showrunner, see what their first credits are. Look at Wikipedia pages and any biographies or interviews you can find with people who hold the positions you aspire to. Learn how they developed their careers. Whether it’s a crew position or the head of a studio, overnight success is a myth. There are years of hard work behind the new breakout star’s current achievements. A lot of that work, led to failure or moderate successes, but they took it in stride and kept going.

Find something to do. This can mean a variety of things, but tailor it to your goals or your discipline. Are you a screenwriter? Take a workshop. Are you a director? Go make something new. And so on. The point is to keep creating content, improving your skillset and building your personal network. No matter how small your town is, there is someone else who’s interested in the same thing. Google local filmmaker groups; many can be found on Facebook or Instagram. Reach out to people over social media and see if they’re interested in meeting for coffee. See if the schools you applied to have any summer programs for non-matriculating students. Don’t forget about community college programs or trade schools. Most importantly, give yourself deadlines for your projects. If you need to, use a festival deadline or the next round of applications to make your timeline, but make one and stick to it.

You are your own best advocate. Film school attendance does not determine your success or failure. I’ll say it again; attending film school does not determine your success or failure. Absorb that. It’s the truth. You have to make it happen yourself. No one is going to do the work for you or advocate for you or hire you as a production assistant if you don’t put yourself out there and do the homework to get started. You are the writer of the story of your life and if filmmaking is your goal, take control of the narrative and get to work.

Remember, how you handle disappointment and rejection say as much about your motivations, ambitions, and potential as much as your successes do.

Some resources to explore-
(It is not an exhaustive list, but there are many options available if you search based on your needs/wants online.)

Indie Film Hustle Blog : Survive & Thrive in the Film Business
Film Riot

LA-based Non-Degree Programs & Workshops -
Home - UCLA TFT Professional Programs
Home | UCLA Extension New York Film Academy | School of Film & Acting

NY-Based Non-Degree Programs & Workshops –
Columbia - School of the Arts
About author
Danni is a long time member of FilmSchool.Org who has worked in the film industry in Los Angeles and Detroit working her way up from production assistant to assistant director. Her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Screen Studies was earned while working full time as a PA in 2012 from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. More recently, Danni began to shift gears and focus on her own storytelling. After applying to screenwriting MFA programs on a whim in 2015 and despite rejections, she has attended workshops at Columbia and UCLA. In 2017, she wrote and directed two short films. Danni is joining Chapman University as a directing discipline MFA student in the fall of 2018.


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