Although the necessity of going to film school is often debated, studying film as a full-time student is a great way to learn and make connections. You can learn the basics of filmmaking such as producing, directing, cinematography, and screenwriting. However, getting a degree in film studies without film scholarships can be extremely expensive. Undergraduate students pursuing their Bachelor’s Degree in Film pay between $20,000 to $70,000 per semester.
If you want to study filmmaking but aren’t sure if you can afford it, film scholarships are a great way to alleviate the cost. It isn’t always easy, however, to know how to get a film scholarship or where to even begin looking for one. In this article, we’ve listed ten great film scholarships you should apply for. We’ve included film scholarships for high school students enrolling in college as well as some for students currently enrolled at a university.
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What Is a Film Scholarship?
A film scholarship is a type of financial aid offered to exceptional and talented students who have a passion for filmmaking. Film scholarship provides financial assistance to outstanding students who have shown potential through artistic and academic performance so they can achieve their career goals with fewer financial burdens. Some scholarships cover the entire cost of tuition, while some offer a financial rebate to students who belong to a minority.
Most students can’t afford a degree or certificate in filmmaking despite its many benefits. A prestigious film school like the American Film Institute (AFI) charges over $60,000 in annual tuition. Film scholarships can ease this financial burden and give students the tuition assistance they need to pursue a career in film.
Common Film Scholarship Requirements
- Creative portfolio. Before applying to a film scholarship program, make sure you’ve updated your creative portfolio. The portfolio should demonstrate your passion for film while also showing off your style and creativity. You should include your best screenplays, documentaries, short films, or feature-length films you’ve worked on.
- Letters of recommendation. When applying for a scholarship, you might need to ask for one to three letters of recommendation. These recommendations are written primarily by people who have had a chance to work with you directly, such as one of your teachers, professors, or mentors. Faculty recommendations are of especially high value.
- FAFSA application requirement. Most film schools require first-year students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application forms for federal grants, work-study programs, and loans before they allow you to apply for any other scholarships. Colleges use FAFSA to assess students’ federal aid eligibility.
- GPA requirement. Merit-based scholarships heavily favor students who can demonstrate their academic excellence. A grade point average of 3.0 or higher is an eligibility criterion for many scholarships available to film students. Scholarship committees use GPA to assess students’ technical skills and aptitude.
- Personal essay. Many scholarships require eligible students to write a 250-word or 500-word essay. This personal essay is where students can reflect on their individual strengths and their passion for a career in the film industry.
- Interview requirements. Students may also have to undergo one or more interview rounds after filling out the film scholarship application. You might be asked to discuss your skillset during the interview.
How to Find Film Scholarships
Finding film scholarships is often the first step toward pursuing a career in the film industry and working in Hollywood. The expensive cost of tuition, a competitive admissions process, and a lack of awareness of scholarships don’t make it easy for aspiring filmmakers.
Several film school scholarship options are available for undergraduate and graduate students. Below are some tips that might help you find film scholarships you can apply for.
Visit Your Film School’s Website
Most film schools offer financial rebates, discounts, scholarships, or student support to talented students who distinguish themselves from the crowd. Students can find information about scholarships that their school offers on the university’s official website. They can also reach out to their university’s financial aid office to explore all available options.
Contact State Grant Agencies
Most states have education agencies that offer a range of student financial aid and grants. Students have a higher chance of getting state grants because they are region-specific. Students can also contact state-sponsored non-profit organizations in their area to seek financial aid.
Use a Scholarship Finder
Students can also research scholarship options for film studies programs using the Scholarship Finder created by the US Department of Labor. It has a database of around 8,000 scholarship opportunities across all subjects. You can filter scholarships by the application deadline, region, and availability.
Work With a Film Production House
Many film production houses run in-house programs to support the education of their employees and their employees’ children. Students can gain hands-on experience and ask the organization to sponsor their education. Students might also benefit from knowing someone who works for a production company, like a parent or a relative.
Tips to Find Film Scholarships for High School Students
Visit Your Career Counselor
The first step you can take to learn about available film scholarships is to contact the career counselor at your high school. Counselors can share information about film scholarships specific to your high school or the university you’re interested in. They can also help you narrow your search and help you solve any problems you come across during your application process.
Prepare in Advance
Hollywood is a competitive and thriving industry, so film scholarships can be hard to get. Students should start preparing to meet the eligibility criteria in advance. In fact, some scholarships give preference to early applicants. If you’re already a high school senior, act fast.
Participate in Competitions
Many film production houses host competitions to search for young talent. Participation in a film competition can be rewarding in many ways. Not only is it a great way to gain hands-on experience and build your portfolio, but winners also walk away with cash prizes. They can also help students stand out when they apply for a job.
10 Best Film Scholarships in 2022: Overview
|Scholarship Name||Who Is Eligible||Amount Covered|
|AVS Thin Film Division James Harper Awards||Graduate students||Up to $800|
|Carole Fielding Student Grant||Undergraduate and graduate students in film programs||$10,000|
|Congressional Black Congress (CBC) Foundation Visual Arts Scholarship||African American students pursuing a degree in visual arts||$3,000|
|ConnectHER Film Festival||Undergraduate or graduate female students||$5,000|
|Francis D. Lyon Graduate Fellowships and Scholarships||Graduate students||Up to $3,000|
|The Gordon Hay Scholarship Fund||High school seniors, college freshmen, or college sophomores majoring in music composition, directing, costume design, set design, lighting design, sound design, stage management, and arts administration||$5,000|
|The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Scholarships||Multiple scholarships with different eligibility requirements||$10,000 – $20,000|
|NSHSS Film and Video Production Scholarship||High school students||$2,000|
|Ocean Awareness Contest||Students between 11 and 18 years old||Up to $1,500|
|Women in Film Foundation Scholarship||Women of all ages||Up to $3,000|
Top 10 Film Scholarships: In Detail
1. AVS Thin Film Division James Harper Awards
- Awarded by: AVS Science and Technology Society
- Deadline: May 2, 2022
The Thin Film Division James Harper Award offers $800 to the recipient. You can apply for the award if you are a graduate student in the US. To be considered for the award, applicants are required to submit their resume, a copy of their submitted AVS abstract, and a letter of recommendation from their research advisor.
2. Carole Fielding Student Grant
- Awarded by: University Film and Video Association
- Deadline: December 1, 2022
The Carole Fielding Student Grant by the University Film and Video Association is a grant that funds production and research proposals. Any undergraduate and graduate students studying film and television can apply in various categories, including narrative, documentary, experimental, animation, multimedia, and research.
3. Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Visual Arts Scholarship
- Awarded by: The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
- Deadline: April 30, 2022
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation offers a $3,000 scholarship to Black US citizens. It is specially designed to support students attending video production, illustration, graphic design, and photography programs. Applicants must be full-time students at an accredited school and must have a GPA of 2.5 or higher to apply for this scholarship.
4. ConnectHER Film Festival Scholarship
- Awarded by: ConnectHER
- Deadline: June 15, 2022
The ConnectHER organization offers 14 scholarships worth $5,000 to talented young female storytellers who make films that tackle the challenges women and girls face. Applicants are required to submit a three-to-six-minute-long short film that focuses on women’s education, empowerment, violence against girls, or other similar topics.
5. Francis D.Lyon Graduate Fellowship
- Awarded by: Phi Delta Theta
- Deadline: March 31, 2022
Phi Delta Theta offers the Francis D. Lyon Graduate fellowships as well as other undergraduate scholarships of up to $3,000 to students enrolled at a full-time college in the US. Students studying filmmaking or visual arts such as drama, theatre, or writing can apply. Applicants don’t have to be a member of Phi Delta Theta to apply for the scholarship.
6. The Gordon Hay Scholarship Fund
- Awarded by: Blumenthal
- Deadline: May 31, 2022
The Gordon Hay Scholarship Fund offers $5,000 to one student every year in the field of performing arts. High school seniors, college freshmen, or college sophomores studying music composition, directing, costume design, set design, lighting design, sound design, stage management, arts administration, and arts education are eligible to participate.
7. The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Scholarships
- Awarded by: The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
- Deadline: March 2023
The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) is a prestigious organization that offers five different scholarships to those who wish to establish a career in the film and television industry. NATAS is popular for its Emmy Awards show. Four scholarships award a $10,000 prize to pursue a degree in communication and related subjects and one awards a $20,000 prize.
8. NSHSS Film and Video Production Scholarship
- Awarded by: National Society of High School Scholars
- Deadline: October 2022
The NSHSS Film and Video Production Scholarship offers $2,000 to three talented students every year. Application for the scholarship opens in July and closes in October. High school students and recent graduates are eligible to apply. The scholarship committee judges students based on the expression of a clear theme, quality of the storyline and script, creativity and content originality, production quality, and editing.
9. Ocean Awareness Contest
- Awarded by: Bow Seat
- Deadline: June 13, 2022
If you’re a young filmmaker who wants to bring awareness to the climate crisis through film, you should consider participating in the Ocean Awareness Contest, which is open to students between 11 and 18 years old. Students are required to submit narrative films, live-action films, hand-drawn or computer-generated animation, documentaries, or experimental films.
10. Women in Film Foundation Scholarship
- Awarded by: Women in Film Foundation
- Deadline: Multiple deadlines
The Women in Film Foundation offers up to $3,000 per academic year to women of all ages majoring in film and television. Furthermore, the foundation has several awards for women who want to study in Los Angeles. Unlike other scholarship programs, the foundation doesn’t accept self-nomination. Students will have to speak to professors in their film and television departments to apply.
Should I Apply for a Film Scholarship?
Yes. If you want to pursue a career in the film industry, film school is a great place to start. A film scholarship will reduce the financial burden that comes with higher education so that you can spend your free time sharpening your skills and creating a portfolio and less time working off your student loans. As a scholarship winner, you may even get the chance to work under a director or in a film production house.
Film Scholarships FAQ
Yes, although this is only the case for a few universities. Full scholarships are highly competitive and require exceptional academic and artistic excellence. Many film schools may only provide partial scholarships to support talented students at their four-year college. Keep in mind that you can apply for and receive multiple scholarships at once.
You’ll be able to apply for film scholarships when filling out the application form for your chosen film school. Many schools may consider you for a scholarship even if you don’t apply for it. In contrast, some may require you to fill out an additional form along with the admission application form.
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Yes, NYU’s film school, or Tisch School of the Arts, offers financial need-based scholarships to talented students. Incoming students have to indicate that they want to apply for the Tisch scholarship when they submit their application.
Yes, it is worth going to film school because the film industry is a growing field in the US. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for film editors, video editors, and camera operators is expected to grow by 29 percent by 2030. A degree in film studies will improve your chances of getting a high-paying job. Alternatively, you can enroll in an online film degree program.
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