My answer to your question will likely be different than most. First, you want to get a college degree? Great! You want to work in the film industry? Great! Don't combine them.
If you really, truly want to work in the film industry, realize no one will care which film school you went to or even IF you went to film school. This is really an apprentice-based industry. Unless it's a different planet, you will never be handed a $100M project to direct the day after you graduate. You will need to "pay your dues." A lot.
So the question hanging in the air is: Why spend tens of thousands of dollars and lose four or more years to end up in the same place?
I've suggested some steps below. The idea is to pay your way by funding your living expenses while working on ACTUAL film productions. A real film production is NOTHING like film school. Seriously. And you know, if you fetch coffee for Spielberg... well, if you don't spill it on him there're chat moments and if you're easy to work with, he (and others) will remember you. In a good way.
Also, the "contacts" you will make in film school are your peers. What you NEED are the folks already in the industry who are ABOVE YOU. Peers may commiserate but they really can't help move you onward. If you feel you NEED film school to be ready for the industry, you may never be ready for the industry.
Sorry about all the "tough love," but there's a huge volume of almost filmmakers out there. The sort of good news is that there is a pretty big range of occupations within the industry and I bet you can find at least one which is fulfilling.
My advice is for you if you want to actually play the game and not just have the uniform in your closet.
Break a leg, etc.
Hank recommends the following next steps:
#3) American Film Institute
#5) Columbia University
In order to be competitive, start creating some fun short films with your friends so that you have some material for your demo reel. Buy an affordable lighting kit on Amazon or just stick to outdoor daytime shoots. Read books on making movies and writing screenplays--"Save the Cat" is the best book for budding screenwriters. Look up when the next 48-Hour Film Festival is happening and join up! Start a YouTube channel or post reels on TikTok or IG. Stay up-to-date with your field's latest technologies and trends; for example, VR/AR, Motion Capture, and much more! See if your high school has a communications department and if anyone is doing anything where you can jump in and be a production assistant. Being on any film set of any size is immensely helpful.
Whatever high school film projects you work on will look super good on your college application!
I wish you the best of luck!
I think high level there are a few things to consider:
1. Budget - do you have money to survive on while you find work and get established? (Rent in LA can run you up to 2000-3000+/m depending on how many roommates you have). Do you have housing provided form family or a relative in the area you are looking for work? Do you already have debts?
2. Experience - Do you have a reel or credits already?
3. Network - Do you know people that are working currently, that can mentor you and possibly help get work or bounce ideas off of? Do you have fellow filmmakers that you can work on projects with?
4. Freelance or Corporate: Do you want steady paycheck or to be able to set your own terms? Are healthcare and vacations important to you?
I personally found film school to be an invaluable experience. I chose to go to one that is not focused on as much theory like UCLA - which is a great school, I went to Full Sail - which is more about the process over theory. For me it was perfect. It was accelerated program, and because new classes start every month, there was 10-15 student projects being done every month that I could PA/ work on set (some sets I did other jobs, even running camera and being key grip). So by the time I finished school I have hundreds of hours to make mistakes, observe mistakes made and it didn't cost me my job. (all within 2 years) I also made several life long friends that are still working in the industry to this day. I was able to try things out and bounce ideas off professors that helped me learn and I was also able to start a network of people who share my passions while I did it. I also worked my first paid professional gigs while in film school for Disney/ ESPN.
You can lean a lot of stuff online, but there is a lot of bad info out there too, so it really takes sifting through that with lots of grains of salt and the ability to discern when its useful or BS.
It really depends on you, how you learn and where you fall on the above points. If you don't have a nest egg to live off of while you look for freelance work and establish yourself, you will struggle. School does cost money, and most corporate roles do want you to have a degree.
If you go the "Get out there" route, there will be risk there too. You should still take some classes on starting a business, and basic finance (balancing a budget, calculating taxes and return on investments etc.) This does not need to be a degree, but books and courses will be of value to you since Freelancing is running a business - you should be an LLC or SCorp and will need to be sure you understand tax laws and how that affects your income and you will need legal advice (you may need to sue clients that dont pay). Always get things in writing, read all the fine print in your contracts and be sure to watch out for people taking advantage. LA is unforgiving.