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2024’s Top Film Schools in North America

USC, UCLA, Cal Arts, Tisch, AFI

Across the film school landscape, there are many notable programs but five in particular stand apart because of their impressive curriculum, notable alumni and overall influence: the American Film Institute, California Institute of the Arts, the Kanbar School of Film and Television at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, and the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

AFI is noted for its remarkable instructors such as cinematography head Stephen Lighthill and producing head Lianne Halfon. Fellows are guaranteed to make films and the school has partnered to help create the Disney/AFI Underrepresented Storytellers Initiative to help create a pathway that removes economic barriers for emerging filmmakers.

Ask many any animation luminary where they went to school, and you’ll likely hear the name CalArts. Notable alumni include Tim Burton, Brad Bird and Pete Docter, whose films have won multiple Academy Awards. Students can choose from 70 comprehensive degree programs.

The Kanbar Institute within Tisch claims Martin Scorsese as a production alum. Several years ago, the school received the largest grant in its history from the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation to establish the Martin Scorsese Institute of Global Cinematic Arts, which includes a virtual production center and cinematic studies.

As a public university, UCLA offers a world-class film school education at a price that won’t saddle a student with heavy costs. Among ambitious offerings at UCLA’s school of theater, film and television is a recently announced extended reality and artificial intelligence research studio at the school’s downtown campus. Faculty includes many noted working pros who cover every aspect of filmmaking such as costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis. Screenwriter David Koepp (“Jurassic Park,” “War of the Worlds”) and Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) are among the school’s many notable alums.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts offers a unique interdisciplinary curriculum, in which students take courses from the full spectrum of the SCA’s offerings — prospective writers take courses in directing, directors take courses in interactive media. Helmer Ryan Coogler and writer-producer Shonda Rhimes are just a few of SCA’s highly successful alums. The school receives tremendous support from the creative community. In 2006, filmmaker and alumnus George Lucas made the largest single donation in USC history by giving the film school $175 million.