Best West Coast Film School

American Film Institute Conservatory

AFI Conservatory

AFI Conservatory

First established in 1967, the American Film Institute is world renowned for producing pioneers and trailblazers in the film industry. As a not-for-profit, private graduate film school, the AFI Conservatory teaches multimodal pedagogy in hands-on courses led by industry experts. Film students...

afi facilities.jpeg
AFI Conservatory is a 54-year old conservatory-style institution and the crown jewel for almost every aspiring film school student. From Patty Jenkins to David Lynch, the university is notorious for producing industry leaders. Understanding and applying the elements of storytelling to hone your creative voice is key to their curriculum.

Most recently, AFI alumni made their mark at the 2022 Academy Awards. Nominations include Siân Heder for Best Adapted Screenplay, Janusz Kamiński for Best Cinematography, and Kim Magnusson for Best Live Action Short.

MFA students collaborate with the best and brightest and enjoy a highly tactile learning experience, making up to 3 films in their first year. AFI also emphasizes inclusivity and gender equity. Zoom Master Seminars introduce students to industry leaders from Maggie Gyllenhaal to Guillermo del Toro. Its upcoming graduating class will be 55% women, according to Metaflix. Director Dime Davis, who became the first Black woman nominated for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series for A Black Lady Sketch Show, joined the faculty in 2020.

For more tips on applying, read our exclusive interview with AFI’s Admissions Department.'s Application Database found that 39% of our members are admitted annually to the MFA Screenwriting program, while only 18% of our members are admitted annually to the MFA Directing program.

Runner-up: Chapman University Dodge College

Chapman University - Dodge College of Film and Media Arts

Chapman University - Dodge College of Film and Media Arts

Rising to number 4 on The Hollywood Reporter's annual rankings of the top 25 American film schools in 2022, Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University offers top-notch filmmaking courses in an intimate learning environment. Notable alumni include the Duffer brothers...

chapman student.jpeg
Dodge College moved up on The Hollywood Reporter's list of best film schools in America, breaching the top 5 in 2021. Alumni include bright young filmmakers like Phumi Morare, whose feature “When the Sun Sets” won the gold medal for the best domestic Narrative film at the 2021 Student Academy Awards. Thanks to Dodge's 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio and cohorts with fewer than 35 students, filmmakers have easy access to top-notch facilities and guided instruction. Films receive complete funding, and each student team gets a $15,000 stipend for their thesis project.

Though newer than other west coast film schools, Dodge College expanded its mentorship opportunities with its Filmmaker-in-Residence program and connections to Netflix, Marvel, Lionsgate, CAA, and Blumhouse. Like AFI, Chapman is committed to diversity and inclusion: 25 professors of color were hired in the 2020-2021 academic year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Read our exclusive interview with the Dodge College Admissions Department for tips on increasing your chances of acceptance.

For even more information, check out our student interviews. Danni explained how the MFA Directing program helped her as a filmmaker. Lucy Choi also offered suggestions and ideas about how to get in as an international student.'s Application Database found that 32% of our members are admitted annually to the popular MFA in Television Writing and Producing program, while 53% of our members are admitted annually to the MFA Directing program.

Currently, more applications are needed for an accurate estimate of undergraduate admissions. If you’ve applied, click here to add your data to's Application Database.