The Guide to Global Film Schools

Courtesy of Tisch Singapore

From Singapore to South Africa, a look at seven institutions that are shaping the future of world cinema.


New York University Tisch School of the Arts Asia
Notable grads: Uta Arning (Snow Child), Gu Qiao (Her Love Story)

For a small, new film school -- it launched in 2007 -- the Singapore-based Tisch School of the Arts Asia already has made an impact in the region.

Hollywood heavyweight Oliver Stone is an artistic director there, and school officials say he visits once a semester. In addition to Stone, Sundance filmmakers Alrick Brown (Kinyarwanda) and Dee Rees (Pariah) will visit the campus in mid-April, along with veteran producer Dan Wigutow (Heaven Help Us).

The school, which offers classes in English and costs about $44,000 a year, offers master's degrees in dramatic writing, animation and digital arts and international media producing.

Amenites include Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro, 35mm and Super 16mm cameras and two soundstages.

"Tisch Asia provides an American conservatory-style education that is backed by decades of experience, state-of-the-art facilities and technology delivered by world-class faculty members, set against the vibrancy and diversity of inspiring Asia," says Pari Sara Shirazi, the school's president.          


The Japan Institute of the Moving Image
Notable grads: Takashi Miike (13 Assassins), Lee Sang-Il (Villain), Yutaka Suzuki (Confessions)

The Japan Institute of the Moving Image opened its doors in April in Kawasaki in its third incarnation, this time as the nation's only specialized filmmaking university. It's a long way from its beginnings as the small film school that now-legendary director Shohei Imamura started in Yokohama, partly because he and his colleagues had almost no work after the Japanese film industry hit rock bottom in the mid-1970s.

The school has come into its own in recent years as alumni have filled the crew of many productions. The results of this year's Japan Academy Awards stand as proof of its progress: The three films that nearly swept the board had strong links to the school. Lee Sang-Il, the Korean-Japanese director of Villain, which took five Japan Academy Awards, is an alumnus, as are Yoshiyuki Koike and Yutaka Suzuki, editor and producer, respectively, of best picture winner Confessions.

Then there's Takashi Miike, whose 13 Assassins will compete at Cannes this year. Miike became a student at the institute after getting his first break as Imamura's assistant.

Yearly tuituon is $19,000, and while instructors speak Japanese the school also teaches its students English, as most Universities in Japan do. With dozens of filmmakers and technicians sharing their knowledge, more than half of the lectures are practical classes that focus on actual moviemaking. "As the only dedicated filmmaking university in Japan, we feel a lot of responsibility," says Tadao Sato, the school's president. "We've got to aim to be outstanding."            


The Beijing Film Academy
Notable grads: Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern), Chen Kaige (Yellow Earth), Lu Chuan (City of Life and Death)

Headed by Zhang Huijun, the Beijing Film Academy is a full-time professional school dating to 1950 that offers bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degrees ranging from directing, cinematography and sound recording to fine art, animation and literature.

The tuition for Chinese graduate students is about $1,500 per year. Admission is extremely competitive, with over 100,000 students signing up for entrance exams each year, and only 500 accepted.

Director Lu Chuan, whose 2009 hit City of Life and Death arrives in the U.S. in May, graduated with a master's at a time when the BFA was "the only gateway for those who had the dream of becoming a filmmaker in China." Working under director Jiang Shixiong, Lu says the BFA's unique atmosphere provided training beyond skill and technique.

"Teachers and students influenced each other, watching masterpieces from France, England, America and Japan," Lu says. "That experience taught us the spirit of the filmmaker, taught us we could make the same kind of films in China."

Lu, who wrote his dissertation on Francis Ford Coppola, went on to make The Missing Gun (2002), the acclaimed Kekexili: Mountain Patrol (2004) and now is shooting the ancient Chinese war epic The Last Supper. He says his career might have stopped before it started if not for the BFA.

"Professor Jiang spent all her time with me, like a mother," Lu says. "She fought for us master's students, and by the end of three years, we'd shot six student films."           


Centro de Capacitacion Cinematografica
Notable grads: Carlos Carrera (The Crime of Father Amaro), Ignacio Ortiz (Mezcal), Felipe Fernandez del Paso (Men With Guns)

The CCC is a public film school that focuses on promoting and inspiring the development of strong, personal points of view in filmmaking, which explains why it named Luis Bunuel as honorary president when it was founded in 1975.

Says CCC director Henner Hofmann: "We generate avant-garde ideas in the art of filmmaking, we take opportunities to the edge, we follow our instincts, and we never stop experimenting ideas."

The school, which costs only about $900 a year to attend and is taught largely in Spanish, accepts 15 students and as many as two foreign students in each area.

University-level studies are divided into three programs: a general filmmaking studies course; a two-year scriptwriting program; and the audiovisual production course, a two-year program the CCC opened this year.


Russian State Institute for Cinema
Notable grads: Andrei Tarkovsky (Andrei Rublev), Alexander Sokurov (Russian Ark), Nikita Mikhalkov (Burnt by the Sun)

Founded in 1919, the Russian State Institute for Cinema is the world's first state-run film school.

Instruction is offered in English, andtuition ranges from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the degree. The Institute offers diplomas for directing, acting, cinematography, animation and multimedia, screenwriting and production. Of the 2,000 students a year, about 200 come to the school from foreign countries.

Formerly known as the All Union State Institute of Cinematography (which included faculty members like Sergei Eisenstein of  Battleship Potemkin fame), the school hosts an annual international student film festival and an international summer school, which this year will take place in the city of Kazan.

"Even during our most difficult period, which coincided with the economic turmoil of the 1990s and a decline in domestic film production, our school didn't see a decline in students, and the number of applications was always higher than what we could accept," says Vitaly Slepokurov, prorector in charge of studies. 


The Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague
Notable grads: Milos Forman (Amadeus), Agnieska Holland (Olivier, Olivier), Emir Kusturica (Underground)

One of three branches of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, the Czech Republic's leading film school was founded in 1946, making it one of the oldest in the world.

Located in the Lazansky Palace, a cultural landmark in downtown Prague, the school has played an important role in Czech cultural history for more than sixty years, nurturing the Czech New Wave and playing a key role in the Velvet Revolution in the late 80s. Notable alumni include Milos Forman, Agnieszka Holland, Emir Kusturica, Jiri Menzel and Ivan Passer.

With tuition in the $24,000 range, the curriculum provides a full array of programs in English for international students, including degree programs like an MFA in cinema and digital media as well as one-year nondegree academy programs with concentrations in screenwriting, cinematography, directing and nonfiction filmmaking. The Academy has also partnered with NYU to offer a semester-long study-abroad program.

"One-on-one mentoring with active filmmakers, an emphasis on practical filmmaking combined with university-level theoretical instruction and an atmosphere of creative collaboration have been the foundation of the (Prague Academy) experience for over 65 years," says Pavel Jech, the school's dean.     


The South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance
Notable grads: Tristan Holmes (Elalini), Debbie Berman (Invictus)

Having opened its doors in 1994, the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance (AFDA) has quickly become the elite institution for South Africa's budding filmmakers. As one of the top six private universities in South Africa, with fully equipped campuses in Johannesburg and Cape Town, AFDA is on par with other prestigious international institutions.

Costing about $8,500 a year, AFDA offers an undergraduate degree program as well as postgraduate programs with courses in music, producing, scriptwriting, directing, cinematography, production design and costume design, to name a few.

As a globally accredited university, AFDA is not limited to South African students. Although all international students are welcome, the school has exchange programs with Spain, Germany and Norway.

South Africa's leading filmmakers regularly participate as guest lecturers, and on occasion, an international celebrity like Morgan Freeman has shared his knowledge with students.             

-- Gavin J. Blair, Kevin Cassidy, Kirill Galetski, Adele Heydenrich, Vladimir Kozlov, Jonathan Landreth and Michael Mackey


  1. Money It's cheaper to study overseas, sometimes drastically so: Mexico's state-run Centro de Capacitacion Cinematografica costs a paltry $75 a month to attend.
  2. History Study film in Prague and you'll attend class every day in the building that served as headquarters for the student-led Velvet Revolution that helped end the Cold War.
  3. Facilities The ultra-modern campus of NYU's Tisch School in Singapore houses two soundstages and offers instruction on the Arri Alexa camera – the only one of its kind used for teaching in Southeast Asia.
  4. Access Less competition can lead to a quick transition into the production sector: The Russian State institute for Cinema boasts that 90 percent of its grads find work in the film industry.
  5. Culture The Beijing Film Academy welcomes students from all over the world, and has strong representation from America, Russia, Germany, Japan and Korea. Classes are taught in Chinese, but students can choose the courses suitable for their own Chinese level.