USC or AFI? (For Directing/Film & TV Production)

nvf101

Active Member
Hi all, long time commenter/lurker and first time poster here.
I find myself in the really fortunate and unexpected position of having been admitted to both USC and AFI for Fall 2021 and I’m in the process of figuring out which one to commit to. Since I am always bowled over by the insights and knowledge floating around on this platform I thought I would throw it open to you guys.

Is anyone else considering the same conundrum?

I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of both. And, for me, I think I feel drawn to AFI as a smaller, more intimate training. I really love the discipline specific approach there as well.

Having said that I also love so much about USC - the facilities are out of this world, and there seems to be a more open remit in terms of what classes you can take. Even if you enter wanting to direct, you can still take classes in any discipline (if you so wish).

As a writer/director it is important to me to be able to take writing classes and feature film development - which both offer.

Then on the money side of things - AFI is more expensive per year. But it is an intensive full time course across two years (rather than three). So actually they work out about the same in terms of tuition. USC seems to give less financial support for the actual films you make - with only a handful of films actually getting a budget from the school. Whereas at AFI every film you make is given a small budget and each thesis gets given around $13,000.

I mean I could probably go on with various pros and cons.

But yeah - if anyone has any thoughts or opinions (or if you happen to be a student at one of these schools) I’d so love to hear from you.

All best!
Nick :)
 

tls

Well-Known Member
Supporter
What a great problem to have! Congratulations on both acceptances - both are amazing schools as we know.

I think the pros and cons you've laid out here are right on point.

One thing I'll add about the discipline-specific AFI training vs the more well-rounded USC training: My interviewer at AFI made it very clear to me that a lot of their directing fellows do not direct right out of school and would be lucky to eventually become a working director (it was a weird experience - but he is the head of the directing discipline). My interviewer at USC mentioned to me that one reason why they diversify training and encourage at least two specializations is so that, while directors are waiting for their break, they can support themselves by working in the industry in some other area (sound/editing are most lucrative as far as consistent money, he said). This really made sense to me. The reason I got this info from both interviewers is because I brought up that, since directing is a soft skill vs, say, editing, what sort of work do directing graduates find as they work their way up? Those were the two different responses I got.

I hope this adds some insight!
 

Chris W

Willem was robbed
Staff member
lot of their directing fellows do not direct right out of school and would be lucky to eventually become a working director (it was a weird experience - but he is the head of the directing discipline).
Well.... He's not wrong. But this applies to all film schools.

There are only a handful of directing jobs but there are hundreds of other jobs.

I've rarely heard of anyone getting a Directing gig straight out of film school.
 

tls

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Well.... He's not wrong. But this applies to all film schools.

There are only a handful of directing jobs but there are hundreds of other jobs.

I've rarely heard of anyone getting a Directing gig straight out of film school.
For SURE. But! I think the thing that struck me was that I didn't ask if they'd be directing out of school (because of course it's super rare for that to happen), I asked what positions they were working in since they're mainly building the skill of director. (Also important to think about when thinking about how to pay off loans). The AFI response was that their directing grads were working mainly in PA, scriptie, or possibly AD roles, which is totally fine, but the USC response was that their aspiring directors go on to be producers, editors, sound designer, etc whileeee they're also pursuing directing. This response made a huge difference, for me at least, because it shows the impact on job prospects with the diverse vs focused training. Just wanted to share.
 

Chris W

Willem was robbed
Staff member
Ahh. I see. Yeah it's a tough nut. They do say in the interview (which will be released later today) that directors do learn other things just not as in depth.

I'll go back to proofreading it right now so I can hit publish. 🤣🤣
 

Abbey Normal

Well-Known Member
Supporter+
Hey @nvf101 looks like you're leaning towards AFI. If so, see you in the fall.

My advice - Go to AFI if you want the specialized training in Directing. Go to USC if you want a well-rounded film experience (writing, directing, editing, etc.).

I'm all for learning different aspects of filmmaking, but if you're already familiar with that, then I'd focus more on the art/craft of directing and really hone in on those skills for the next two years!

@Chris W still waiting for that AFI interview. You said last week a week ago 🤣
 

Chris W

Willem was robbed
Staff member
@Chris W still waiting for that AFI interview. You said last week a week ago 🤣
Good things come to those who wait.

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Ask anyone about where to go to film school, and you’re bound to hear the American Film Institute Conservatory. First established in 1967, AFI is world renowned for producing pioneers and trailblazers in the film industry. In 2020, the Hollywood Reporter ranked AFI as the top film school in...

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