Prague Film School: Fostering global talent and filmmaking magic for 20 years

At PFS, award-winning film talent instructs students, giving a firsthand taste of what a film career looks like.

Julie O'Shea

Written by Julie O'Shea Published on 24.01.2024 17:00:00 (updated on 24.01.2024) Reading time: 5 minutes

On a recent stormy afternoon in Prague, a clown walks down a busy street in Žižkov, suitcase in hand, searching for an address. He looks up, taps his hat and hurries towards a building buzzer. Finding the name he’s searching for, he rings and waits a beat. 

“And cut!” Dora Neiden jumps up from behind the monitor she’s been hunched over and goes to huddle with the clown. He nods, listening to her instructions. Neiden, laser-focused, rushes back to stand beside her camera crew. 

“OK, let’s try this again,” she says, checking the monitor. “And – action!”

Neiden, a student at Prague Film School, and her team are at the tail end of their second full day of filming her final project – a five-minute production about a hospice clown who has come to perform one last act for a dying father.    

Following several more takes, filming moves inside to a cramped two-bedroom flat that has been transformed into a mini film set, complete with a couple of large lighting reflectors, and professional-grade camera equipment stacked carefully against the walls. 

The crew – fellow PFS students from different corners of the world – move nimbly from one room to another, dimming the overhead lights in the hallway, rearranging furniture, tending to the last-minute needs of the cinematographer. 

The group has been working closely together for weeks now, crewing for each other’s various semester projects – each has to direct a total of four over a four-month period – and the excited anticipation when Neiden, 22, calls for quiet on set is palpable.       

“I ended up being so madly in love with my group. I think they are all the most wonderful people, and I am so proud of everything that we’ve made,” Neiden later gushes during a break in editing her final product. She’s preparing to be critiqued by her peers and teachers the next day.  

A recent college undergraduate, she signed on for a semester at Prague Film School to hone her filmmaking skills and strengthen her technical expertise to make herself more marketable when she returns home to New York.

Small film communities, like PFS, create a lot of really nice camaraderie and excitement to see what other people are doing,” she says. “There is a lot of support and encouragement here, and I think that is a huge part why I was willing to try a lot of new things over the last several weeks.”

It’s this kind of sentiment that has attracted so many young and aspiring filmmakers from some 30 different countries to PFS over the last two decades. The school, which is based in a labyrinthine UNESCO-protected building in the middle of New Town, has become a leading destination for studying filmmaking, documentaries and acting in Europe.      

Annwesha Guha had been skeptical about enrolling at a film school. At 25, she’d already completed a number of projects within India’s reputable film community and was of the opinion that practical experience far outweighed time in a classroom.  

A friend talked her into sending an application to PFS, and Guha knew within the first few days of attending classes that her time at Prague Film School would be transformative. 

“This is a world of its own. You are talking about films. You are making films. You are learning – and also unlearning – so many things in the process,” Guha says. “Had I had the knowledge I have now that I am in a film school back when I was shooting something in India, I would have done some things in a different way.” 

PFS, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, has brought abroad numerous award-winning film talent as visiting instructors over the years, giving students a firsthand taste of what a career in the industry is like. Classes are small, the environment supportive and discussions lively with viewpoints freely exchanged between lecturers and students.    

“If I bring an idea I am just starting to work on to a class of 10 other students, everyone is going to have different ideas. A lot of times they have me considering things I hadn’t before,” says Guha. “At PFS, you not only have the freedom to think any idea you want but also to execute it, which I think in itself is a great experience.” 

Prague is unabashedly a movie-making hotspot. Its stunning backdrops have long enticed global production companies as well as widened the imaginations of budding filmmakers looking to experiment and bring new stories to life.        

PFS alumni have gone on to join a number of prestigious film projects, including Oscar-nominated movies like “Jojo Rabbit” and “Lion” as well as Marvel blockbusters such as “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and “Thor: Ragnarok.” 

Founded in 2004 as the Prague Center for Further Education by Tariq Hager and Tomas Krasauskas, PFS today has expanded to offer programs that focus on filmmaking, acting and documentaries. Students have access to all the equipment, costumes, props and contacts they’ll need to make their time at PFS a success.     

The school partners with a number of different elite universities like Oberlin and Northwestern.

Deion Hammond, 20, signed on for a full year. At home, he’s studying English at a liberal arts college in Massachusetts but says he has always been drawn to film and sees his time at PFS as an opportunity to explore whether this field could make a good long-term career fit.  

“I love spending time with this group of people,” Hammond says. “I have always enjoyed editing but my cinematography class was more of the surprise. And that’s down to the teacher.” His second semester will be dedicated to producing one big film project by May.      

“I think this program has really solidified that this is something that I could do as an actual job. That’s really one of the reasons I wanted to come to this school,” Hammond says. “You don’t really get a chance to try out being, for example, an accountant for a year before you’re like, ‘Actually, I’m not that interested.’” 

At PFS “you get a nice taste of what being in this industry would entail. Working on sets is exhausting but it’s also very rewarding especially when you see the final product and know that you contributed in some way,” Hammond says.    

This article was written in cooperation with the Prague Film School. Read more about our sponsored content policy here.

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