You want to avoid the expense of film school, to avoid graduating with a massive debt and a worthless degree. You have to figure out how to make the connections without enrolling, which doesn't seem like it would be that hard.
It seems like someone who wants to be a filmmaker had BETTER be able to come up with something more creative than "go to film school, then get a job."
There's always Toronto with its thriving film industry.
With the economy the way it is...
The economy is lousy. But the rich now are MUCH richer than they were just ten or twenty years ago. It's not that the economy isn't working---it's that it's working exactly the way they want it to, to the advantage of the parasites who control it. Which means this situation is going to be more or less permanent.
For the aspiring filmmaker, it either means you should snap out of it and do something that will actually allow you to earn a living, or it means that you're doomed to poverty anyway, so you may as well go for it. The only fields where the job market is expanding are waitressing and bartending.
John Waters, et al
John Waters started out filming hideously offensive movies for people in Baltimore. "Transgressive" (intentionally offensive) cinema would be hard to succeed at now since South Park and Family Guy have cornered that market, in much the same way that mainstream cinema is now bloodier and gorier than anything Hershel Gordon Lewis ever made.
In the early '60's, exploitation filmmakers were in trouble. Hollywood had moved in on their territory. They had been making sex movies. Not porno---just movies about sex. The cheap exploitation filmmakers had to think of something new, something commercially viable that Hollywood would never stoop to. They came up with "gore movies".
Now Hollywood has taken that over, too.
So. What's left? What is there? What is there that has commercial potential, that can be filmed on a tiny budget, and that Hollywood won't touch?
They've already taken over the gay market.