The Best Filmmaking Courses to Hone Your Technique & Boost Your Career

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As a budding filmmaker, Where should you go to refine your craft and build your portfolio? Online classes aren’t a bad place to start. Some of the opportunities in this roundup are one-off classes for beginners; others are full-fledged degree programs. All of them will give you a better understanding of the filmmaking process. 

Factors to consider:

  • What’s your budget? Attending an arts program could land you in debt. If you’re low on money, consider instead building a financial cushion that will give you the flexibility to apprentice or intern on a project.
  • What equipment and materials will the program provide, and what will you need to supply yourself? This will have a major impact on the overall cost of the class or program. 
  • What’s your timeline? Would you rather take a course that lets you go at your own pace, or do you need the structure of scheduled sessions?
  • Are you looking for a program that includes studying the history of cinema and genre, or are you more interested in developing your own projects? 
  • Do you want to build a network? Look into what the program does to foster community among students, teachers, and working professionals. 
  • Do you want to earn a degree or certificate, or are you simply interested in your own enrichment? 

If you’re not yet ready to commit funds to your film education, don’t worry. There are lots of resources you can access for free, such as No Film School. The site features articles on a wide range of filmmaking topics and has its own podcast. (One episode, for example, covers improvising on set, the impact of artificial intelligence on cinema, how to market yourself, and how to cope with feelings of artistic failure.) 

Here are a few classes and programs to consider.

Classes and Workshops

New York Film Academy

NYFA offers live online workshops with industry professionals; best of all, they’re accessible to anyone—no prerequisites necessary. Courses run anywhere from one to 15 weeks. The Online Filmmaking program allows participants to attend classes on a full-time or part-time basis, running on various schedules throughout the workweek. Since students take courses from their own location, they should be prepared to use their own equipment—a smartphone camera and a hard drive with substantial data capacity, for example. Tuition ranges from $500–$2,000.

Sundance Collab 

The Sundance Institute’s Collab gives filmmakers and creators a forum to learn the tricks of the trade and engage with the global film community. The digital platform offers workshops, master classes, and live lectures. For example, you could take a 10-week course titled Directing: Core Elements or watch
Directing Actors, a master class with industry vet Judith Weston. Collab also has a library of materials including podcasts, worksheets, toolkits, grant opportunities, and critiques. 

There are three membership tiers available: The first level is free and provides access to community forums and limited resources, with the option to purchase individual lesson recordings. The second costs $12 a month, which will grant you unlimited access to the library and master classes. The third level ($27 per month) gives you access to all of Collab’s resources, including one-on-one office hours with the adviser-in-residence, plus professional feedback on your work. 

University of Colorado Boulder

Through Coursera, CU Boulder offers a course called the Art of Visual Storytelling Specialization, in which participants can dig into specific topics without committing to a degree program. Students learn about preproduction, including conceptualization and storyboarding; the course also covers production topics such as camera functionality, recording, and lighting. Postproduction subjects including editing, aesthetics, and copyright and intellectual property matters. This course takes five months to complete, with a suggested pace of five hours per week. While students can view the class content for free, there is a monthly subscription fee for students pursuing a specialization.

University of Colorado Boulder Issarawat Tattong/

University of Pennsylvania

This Ivy League institution offers a self-paced four-week course on the history, industry, and art of cinema via the online educational platform edX. The class—Hollywood: History, Industry, Art—focuses on filmmaking as a business and cultural phenomenon rather than hands-on training. The curriculum focuses on film analysis, the history of American movie studios, the influence of global audiences on the U.S. system, Hollywood politics, and the relationship between commercial and indie media. Students can audit the course for free for a limited time; or for $169, they can do graded assignments and receive a certificate of completion. While this isn’t a degree program, the legacy and academic rigor associated with UPenn set it apart.


MasterClass has become so pervasive in the culture that even sketch comedians lift the formula for laughs. That’s likely because the platform has created a winning combination: Established names sharing the tricks of the trade via a sleek, digestible video format. Filmmakers looking to learn from the best can check out a class from Martin Scorsese, which comprises 30 video lessons over roughly four and a half hours. Other offerings include sessions from Ron Howard on directing, Werner Herzog on filmmaking, and Aaron Sorkin on screenwriting. A subscription to MasterClass, which includes access to more than 2,500 lessons from A-listers across multiple fields, costs $180 yearly. 

Degree and Certificate Programs

Arizona State University

This state school offers an online bachelor’s degree in film and media studies. The program includes analysis of film and media criticism, as well as a look at the history of the industry. Students can build up their cultural literacy and competency and walk away with a full-fledged ASU degree—with no caveat that they earned it on the web. The degree program includes 39 classes; each takes roughly seven and a half weeks to complete. The program requires 120 credit hours, and tuition costs around $80,000 for those who aren’t Arizona residents.

University of California Los Angeles

UCLA’s virtual Screenwriting: Film and TV Comprehensive offers opportunities for beginner screenwriters as well as experienced professionals looking to sharpen their craft; the intensive is primarily aimed at international students who want to get a prerequisite in the field. The certificate program—which has seven course requirements with four elective options—includes an overview of pre- and postproduction, classes on the business of film and TV, and progressive courses on writing for both. It will cost you around $11,000, including application fees and textbook resources.