February 18, 2016 Contessa Abono

13 Best Online Film Schools

digital generated workspace desktop with online english learning on screen computer. All screen graphics are made up. 3D generated.

Whether you want to start a filmmaking career, break into the visual effects scene or master video editing there’s a highly specialized online learning resource just waiting for you.

One of the elements that makes online schools so appealing in the film industry is that the majority of your time at film school is spent out in the world, on set, or making new film projects with classmates. So if you’re studying filmmaking at film school or learning VFX skills  – you pretty much need to do your projects “out in the field” or dive deep in solo computer work.

Why learn online?

  1. Convenience. Watch video lessons anytime. (It’s likely you’ll miss classes because shoot location availability days and times conflict with class times) Plus the ability to stop, rewind, and rewatch key points of a professor’s lecture is priceless.
  2. Global networking.  Many elements of online film schools provide online chat groups with some of the best in the field, one-on-one mentorship and networking events. You’re sure to e-meet and gain contacts from all over the world.
  3. Flexible curriculum. Online courses are up-to-date on how to effectively finance, market and distribute projects beyond the festival circuit with web series and other online formats/platforms. In these ever-changing times it’s great they don’t follow strict traditional university guidelines.

Filmmaking Courses:



UCLA Online Extension:

UCLA is a dream school for most aspiring filmmakers. What most people don’t know is that they offer an online extension without taking a semester long course and traveling to Los Angeles! Courses include: Introduction to Art and Technique of Filmmaking, Digital Cinematography, Screenwriting Fundamentals, Advanced Screenwriting Workshop, Art and Practice of Motion Picture Producing, Planning Independent Feature Production, and Overview of Contemporary Film Industry. Courses are open to the general public, as well as to some high school students. If you want to jump start your filmmaking career, these courses are a great way to gain access to a small window in Hollywood.



Film School Online:

Film School Online is a vast knowledge-based approch to filmmaking that is taught by Louis La Volpe, production supervisor for New York University’s Institute of Film and Television. He offers six affordable courses at $14.95 per course or whole program for $49.99. There is also a range of other courses and lectures in Screenwriting, Directing, Cinematography, Sound, Editing, and Producing. Film School Online is a great option for those wanting to learn about filmmaking and are on a small budget. You can take the individual courses, or a discounted package that includes all of the courses, as well as 2 years of access to the course materials.



Lights Film School:

Specifically for narrative films, documentary films, or music videos, it’s great for the beginners with little to no experience.

They offer general courses that covers things like: Lighting & Design for Independent Films & Documentaries, Sound Design for Film and Documentary, Writing for Small Budget Production,  Creating the World of Your Script, Choosing Themes & Creating Compelling Scenes, Defining the Director, Writing Dialogue, Discussion and Examples of the Hero’s Journey, and Directing a Documentary. Costs range from $399 – $549 for filmmaking courses and $299 for the music video courses.


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Lynda Filmmaking Training Tutorials: 

Amazing resource for all types of filmmaking. Learn how to make a movie — how to shoot and direct a film and edit your footage with software like Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, and After Effects.

Learn filmmaking from the pros with tips from featured Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) directors, screenwriters, and producers. Memberships start at $19-$34 a month based on your level of access to content. There is a 10-day free trial and group membership available. Many University film schools and New Media programs supplement learning with Lynda tutorials —  they’re that good.




If you want an online interactive class with instructor-led videos but don’t have the time or money to invest in-person coursework Skillshare has compiled some of the top filmmaking tutorials that will help you on your way to making better films. Offering courses in video editing, screenwriting, stop-motion animation, writing for sketch comedy and courses that cover technical aspects of pre-production.

Each of these courses is taught through fun video tutorials and provides forums in which students can help and support each other’s learning. Courses are often incredibly affordable or you can sign up for a membership that will give you access to hundreds of Skillshare classes. Memberships range from $0-$10 a month based on your level of access to content.

For Learning VFX (Visual Effects):



The Gnomon Workshop/Gnomon.edu, an industry leader in professional training for artists in the entertainment and design industries. Huge selection of workshops that delve into the rich art of computer graphics and practical effects for the entertainment industry. (Bonus: recommended by Director JJ Abrams!) You sign up for a subscription ($499 a year or $59 a month.) When you subscribe to The Gnomon Workshop you will immediately get access all the unique educational resource. You log in and use the menu to navigate to your desired tutorial. Every time they release a new DVD or tutorial they simultaneously add it to the corresponding subscription libraries –  there are no additional costs.





VFX Learning:

VFX Learning specializes in the creation of training material for individuals interested in a career in VFX.

Get great training from industry professionals from your own home. The entire program is $99.





Nuke Station: 

NUKE is a node-based digital compositing application developed by The Foundry, and used for film and television post-production. Nuke Station is a place to share Nuke tutorials. The idea is that anyone can add tutorials and keep the library growing. Amazingly all the tutorials are free!




fxphd is an online video effects, production, and post-production training program that will help you gain some serious filmmaking chops. Divided into 10 week terms, fxphd offers a series of courses you will get to choose from (depending on your pricing plan) that are taught through online tutorials with professional support. fxphd offers 19 fully interactive courses in addition to about 80 tutorials without instructor moderation, many of which you may earn a certificate of completion. Furthermore, fxphd offers VPN software for download so that you may effectively learn and experiment with the course material. Memberships ranging from $159-$459.




One of the leaders in high-end video training for visual effects artists. For over 10 years cmiVFX has been providing valuable lessons in both real-world and experimental techniques of the Visual Effects Industry. Their training material is exclusively from mentors who have contributed to a number of the world’s most famous movies, advertisements and media. Operating based on your participation, each and every sale funds new lessons and web development. It’s a great VFX community with thousands of others who have made cmiVFX their indispensable source for visual effects and computer training. Different tutorials have different pricing and you buy individually or a year subscription for $299 a year.



Video Copilot –  Stunning and specialized tutorials for motion design and VFX editors. Video Copilot creates useful tools and training for people who love motion design and visual effects. They also have a very active forum and social networking sites to ask and get answers for some of your burning video questions. Various video tutorial DVDs are for sale ranging around $99-$299. There is also many free tutorials and plug-ins.







They believe everyone should have the opportunity to build a career they’re passionate about. Going beyond the traditional education model, their motto is learning shouldn’t be confined to a classroom, rigorous schedule or select minority. There are courses in all aspects of filmmaking like: Introduction to Color Grading in DaVinci ResolveAdvanced Editing Theories and Techniques in Premiere ProCompositing CG into Live Action for Production in NUKE and 100’s more. Plans are $24.92 a month or 1 annual payment of $299. (Or $29 a month if billed monthly.)



3D Buzz– Offers an extensive video training library covering a range of different softwares and features. For this list we are mostly interested in their video editing section and Premiere but it’s worth checking out for yourself if there’s something you fancy. Subscriptions range from $35-$16 a month based on the amount of time you sign up for.



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About the Author

Contessa Abono Contessa is a journalist from the San Francisco Bay Area that specializes in entertainment, online and photojournalism. She has written articles, shot photography and videography for many online and print publications such as SF Weekly, The Guardian, Guitar Player Magazine, The Press Newspapers and Pinpoint Music. Her favorite genre of film is documentary, usually about the supernatural or pop culture. She is also an avid pecan pie and kitten enthusiast.