The 10 Best Film Schools in Canada

Canada is a film school powerhouse. Students can choose to enroll in public or private institutions in thriving cities like Toronto, Ontario, Montreal, Quebec, and Vancouver, British Columbia. 

In addition to serving as the home of some of the world’s top film schools, these cities also offer students the quintessential college experience. Bustling with culture, museums, art galleries, cinemas, restaurants, sports arenas, and natural beauty, students will have many opportunities in these urban settings.

Film schools in Canada offer an array of programs and levels of degrees. From accelerated one-year programs to BAs, BFAs, MAs, MFAs, and PhDs, those with a passion for filmmaking can go as far in depth with their studies as they like. 

Canadian film schools grant students the opportunity to learn about all aspects of filmmaking, from cinematography, lighting, costume design, screenwriting, and animation, to video game development, film theory, augmented reality, virtual reality, and documentary production.

Below are 10 of the best film schools in all of Canada.

Concordia University Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema (Montreal, QC)

Concordia hosts the largest university-based school for film animation, film production, and film study in Canada. 

In fact, it was one of the first Canadian universities to offer cinema courses and degrees, and currently accepts 250 new students on an annual basis.

Montreal, where Concordia’s School of Cinema is situated, is well-known for its reputation as one of the best North American cities for cinema. 

At Concordia, Students can choose from three BFA programs: animation techniques, technical and aesthetic production practices, or film theory. 

Graduate students can pursue an MFA degree in Film Production, as well as an MA and PhD in Film and Moving Image Studies. The student-run Concordia Film Festival is held annually and serves as a platform for Concordia students to showcase their projects.

Concordia has produced multiple award winners and nominees, including Yves Belanger (cinematography on Dallas Buyers Club), Emilie Goulet (computer graphics animator for the Oscar-winning film, Soul), and Sephen Campanelli, who has collaborated with actor Clint Eastwood on over 20 films.

Simon Fraser University School for the Contemporary Arts (Vancouver, BC)

Simon Fraser University
Public domain photo by RestfulC401 (WinterforceMedia) via Wikimedia Commons

Students at Simon Fraser can obtain a BFA in Film or minor in Film & Video Studies. 

Within the BFA courses, students learn how to shoot 16mm film on Bolex and Arriflex cameras in their first two years of study; in the last two years, all students can continue shooting on film or move to digital video.

The main cameras used at Simon Fraser are the Red Scarlet and Epic Cameras, as well as Panasonic GH5 dslr cameras and Sony 4k video cameras (all of which students get to use in their experiential education). 

SFU also encourages students to gain interdisciplinary experience in dance, visual art, theatre, music, art, and performance studies.

Simon Fraser operates on a cohort-based program of 24 students that loop through the program. These students are selected from a pool of roughly 125 applicants, from which 50 candidates get an opportunity to attend a 15-minute interview. 

In the fourth year of study, students are committed to producing, shooting, and editing their own film, which they will screen at the Concordia Film Festival. 

Alumna Kathleen Hepburn’s Never Steady, Never Still was shown at the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) and was recognized as one of the best Canadian films in 2017.

Carleton University (Ottawa, ON)

Carleton University
Bronwood315, Carleton Quad, CC BY-SA 4.0

When students pursue the Cinema and Media Studies (CAMS) major at Carleton University, they gain experience in a broad range of subjects, from moving image and sound media to digital video and audio production, genre studies, and film and tv-writing.

The Comps is a senior project where individual students or groups of students direct their own projects, along with the support of faculty advisors. 

The Comps is made up of five core elements: a 4-5 page project proposal and bibliography, a project, a 4-5 page methods essay with bibliography, a symposium presentation, and adherence to the process.

Students can choose from writing a scholarly paper, a feature-length or short screenplay, or a full or half-hour TV pilot for the project. 

They can also opt to shoot a short film. Students are required to take an exam that consists of three extended-response questions stemming from their coursework.

Carleton grads move on to experience success in the film industry. 

Recently, production designer Paul Austerberry won an Oscar and BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Awards) for his assistance on the set of The Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo del Toro and named Best Picture of the Year in 2018.

Ryerson University (Toronto, ON)

Ryerson’s BFA in Image Arts: Film Studies introduces and immerses students in writing, directing, producing, art direction, editing, cinematography, theory, and film history. 

Students are required to complete an internship, where they often work with expert filmmakers. 

In their 3rd year of study, they can elect an Integrated Digital option, where they will focus more on digital media. Each year, senior film students collaborate to organize a film screening at a local theater.

Students can move on to obtain an MA in several interesting areas, like Film and Photography Preservation, Scriptwriting and Story Design, or Documentary Media. 

Ryerson alumni have worked in many behind-the-scenes positions for popular films and television shows. Peter Mettler’s film, Picture of Light, was recently named one of Canada’s Essential 150 Films by TIFF. Pia Di Ciaula is a TV editor who has worked on The Crown on Netflix. 

Jeremy Podeswa has written and directed three award-winning films and is considered one of the best TV directors in the world – he has been nominated for an Emmy Award four times for shows like Game of Thrones.

Capilano University School of Motion Picture Arts (North Vancouver, BC)

Founded in 1968, Capilano houses western Canada’s largest film school. In fact, the university is best known for its film, animation, performing arts, and jazz programs of study.

Capilano offers programs for students interested in specialties like animation, filmmaking, lighting/grip work, virtual reality, and games. 

There, students can obtain a Bachelor of Motion Picture Arts degree, as well as other certificates, degrees, and diplomas. 

The Bosa Centre for Film and Animation houses one of the only Indigenous filmmaking programs in the North American continent. Students who complete that diploma may then apply to enter year 3 of the Bachelor of Motion Picture Arts program of study.

Recently, Capilano has partnered with Vancouver Film School’s Digital Design and Acting for Film & Television to create the VFS-CapU Pathway Program. 

Graduates of VFS’ program can move on to pursue a BA in Design in Visual Communications (or Performing Arts) at Capilano.

In 2019, six Capilano film school alumni debuted their films at the Vancouver International Film Festival; alumni have also collaborated on popular films like Disney’s Zootopia.

Toronto Film School (Toronto, ON)

Toronto is known as Canada’s film, fashion, and design capital. It is home to the annual Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) and a $2 billion film and entertainment industry; in fact, over 260 productions have been filmed in Toronto.

It is no surprise that TFS is one of Canada’s top-ranked film schools. Programs include 12-18 month diplomas in subjects like Graphic Design & Interactive Media, Video Game Design & Animation, and Writing for Film & TV.

TFS also offers a 12-week ESL pathway for students in need of English language refinement prior to commencing a Film School diploma program.

Graduates move on to become directors, producers, visual effects supervisors, film/TV/theater actors, voice-over artists for radio/TV/animation/video games, costume designers, game developers, and motion graphics designers.

Film production graduates have worked on films like The Shape of Water, Marvel’s Black Panther, Star Trek Beyond, and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast live-action remake. Additionally, game animators have collaborated on popular video games like Grand Theft Auto.

Vancouver Film School (Vancouver, BC)

First established in 1987 with only six film students in the first class, Vancouver Film School now uses an accelerated one-year education model that balances theory with production experience. Students collaborate with award-winning faculty and mentors from some of the world’s best studios.

There are 15 programs that students can choose from at VFS. Some options include 3D animation and visual effects, film production, games/web/mobile programming, VR/AR design and development, and creature animation.

For the second consecutive year, VFS was named the best school for animation training on both Canadian and International rankings lists. Students have earned over 5000 Oscar and Emmy award nominations and wins, and alumni belong to entertainment properties that gross almost $20 billion.

Alumni have contributed to films and TV shows like Game of Thrones, Wonderwoman, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, Joker, Disney’s Aladdin live-action remake, and Marvel’s Black Panther.

York University School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (Toronto, ON)

York University
Andrei Sedoff, Vari Hall, CC BY 3.0

Undergraduate programs at York University include BFAs in Media Arts, Production, or Screenwriting and BAs in Cinema & Media Studies. Graduate students can obtain an MFA in Film, MA in Cinema & Media Studies, or a Ph.D. in Cinema & Media Studies.

Film classes at York typically do not exceed 25 students, and the York Screenwriting Program is one of the best in all of North America. 

Students frequently earn opportunities for field experiences at TIFF and attend classes with illustrious visiting artists; they can gain film experience by creating short fiction, documentary, and alternative films at Cinespace Film Studios.

Emmy Award-winning screenwriters like David Shore (House) and Karen Walton (Orphan Black and Queer as Folk) offer master classes at the school, and alumna Maya Bankovic won Best Cinematography for Akilla’s Escape at the 2021 Canadian Screen Awards.

University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)

The University of British Columbia has one of the first Film Production programs in Western Canada. 

Many shows have actually been filmed on its campus, including 50 Shades of Gray, Smallville, X-Men Origins, The X-Files, The Butterfly Effect, and many more.

Students at the University of British Columbia can obtain a BA or BFA in Film or Theatre Studies. The BA is more focused on theoretical knowledge, whereas the BFA integrates theory with practice, artistry, and research. 

Graduates can earn an MA in Theatre and Film, an MFA, MA, or Ph.D. in Theatre and Film.

Like many other schools on this list, UBC propels its graduates to exciting opportunities in the film industry. 

Mike Inwood is one such Emmy Award-winning lighting designer. Additionally, student projects are frequently screened and nominated for awards at Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, and TIFF.

University of Toronto Cinema Studies Institute (Toronto, ON)

The University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute is one of the largest undergraduate film programs of study in Canada. They offer major, minor, and specialist programs in cinema studies.

A specialist requires ten courses, the major requires seven courses, and the minor requires courses. All courses are organized into seven groups: foundations, genre and modes, social and cultural practices, theory and criticism, history and nation, and independent studies. Core focuses hone in on film analysis as well as film history and film theory.

The Cinema Studies Institute is a promising option for students seeking financial aid. The institute offers nine scholarships explicitly devoted to undergraduate students pursuing the cinema studies program of study.