Survey Courses (History of Cinema, Documentary Production, etc)
Expensive as Hell
Ultra Conservative Admin
Limited Production Oppurtunities
I want to start this off by saying I got an amazing education from the University of Chicago. It's one of the top schools in the country for a reason. More specifically, the Cinema Studies Program is diverse, engaging, and perfect for anyone who is looking to learn about film from a historical and theoretical lens. There is essentially no production component to the program, so your opportunities to make films are pretty much on you. That being said, there are great student run programs for filmmaking that have tons of funding from the university, and access to pretty good equipment.
My gripe about my experience is that...I am a wealthy white man. This school is really great for wealthy white men. It is really, REALLY tough to be a student of color, or a woman at this school. Controversies galore, I can only say re my comment about the admin, that UChicago is investigated almost yearly for Title IX violations.
The academics are amazing if your willing to put yourself through one of the most intense and unforgiving environments for learning in the country, and the school has a lot of amazing things going for it. But I cannot stress enough that this school is very, very hard.
tomkristensen311 is undecided about recommending this film school
AU is a bit of a diamond in the rough in terms of Film BAs. Well, maybe not diamond - but one of the lesser gems. I had a great experience at AU and within my major but I struggle to agree that I went to "film school". The film program has a lot of excellent professors - as well as some okay ones - but there is a real disparity amongst students and what they want to achieve with their degrees. I mean that in terms of drive as well as future goals. Traditionally more focused on docs, there has been a trend towards narrative films within the program. There were some growing pains as the faculty realized their student body was pretty 50 / 50 but they seem to be moving in the right direction. The program definitely has a distinctively indie feel.
That said, if you are someone who wants to be on film sets regularly, this may not the place for you. There are opportunities for students to do great work but there is not a lot of consistency. Some students never touched a camera until their senior year while others were excellent with cameras - and they all took the same requirements. The same can be said for networking, getting internships, etc. It's there in theory, but takes some extra effort. Surely COVID-19 and online courses impacted this but there is definitely a lack of follow through overall.
I will say, I found AU to be a pretty well-rounded degree. Housed within the School of Communications, students take other SOC curriculum and all SOC students are required to declare a minor. Upon graduation, I had a lot of hirable skills within media production and related industries like PR and graphic design. AU itself may not be a big name within the industry but if a student applies themselves to the coursework, it can definitely be a rewarding degree.
What ultimately hinders AU for certain filmmakers is its location. DC is an incredible city but for narrative filmmakers, it is not ideal in terms of internship opportunities and jobs. Going to AU will not break you into the film industry - but it will could help you become someone with the ability to do so.
Access to visiting filmmakers with opportunities for one on one workshops with them.
Collaboration between undergrad and graduate film students is frequent.
Interesting array of film classes. Undergrads can take graduate level classes for credit.
Undergrads are assigned a film/video faculty mentor throughout their time at CalArts.
RED RAVENS are available in the cage to borrow for film shoots
Consistently working on new films/work
Faculty can be more diverse
Tuition is expensive
Further removed from Los Angeles
Tuition raised every year
Very limited scholarships
CalArts' Film program is known to be more experimental; however, I wouldn't say it focuses solely on art-house cinema or experimental cinema, but presents it in the curriculum as a method of filmmaking. I learned a lot of filmmaking theory while at CalArts through watching making films and dissecting the filmmaking styles I liked and disliked. It was a formative 3 years for me that taught me a lot about filmmaking and the filmmaker I wanted to be. I would highly recommend this program to those who want to do narrative work as well! They have great equipment and mentorship opportunities.
An affordable option if you're willing to dedicate the time to teach yourself.
Low cost program
Decent equipment and facilities
Cleveland has a decent film scene
The older faculty isn't knowledgeable
Alumni network is virtually non-existent
No internship opportunities
Lack of diversity
I graduated from CSU's film program right before they revamped it to include a BFA option. I was mostly interested in screenwriting and that wasn't really an option at the time so I took the one screenwriting class offered and then took playwriting classes in the English department. My biggest critique of the program at that time was that there really weren't that many classes to have a well-rounded education in film and they mostly taught film as a trade, so you'd learn how to be a camera operator at a sports event as opposed to how to be a really good director of photography.
They had pretty decent equipment but none of the instructors were knowledgeable about how to use it, in fact they would at times use the equipment for their own personal projects and I thought that was annoying. That said, if you wanted to go to the equipment cage and play with the equipment and figure everything out yourself, they were okay with that at the time but that may have changed since they revamped the program. I ended up working in the equipment cage and got really good with a lot of the lights (cameras never were my strong suit). The other cage employees also had a ton of knowledge about the equipment and could teach you more than the faculty they had at the time. But some people may really like being able to use the equipment and figure it out for themselves. They also had a pretty good editing bay with Adobe Suite and Avid, you could sign up to use the computers and teach yourself to use all of that software and be pretty damn good at it if you wanted, a lot of students did that.
The faculty was kind of a mess. Most of the old faculty is still there and I think that's unfortunate because the older male faculty members really weren't good instructors. They had the energy of guys who didn't make it and were falling back on teaching, which sucks because you want people who are really passionate and knowledgeable about teaching. They also played favorites a lot, and usually, that benefitted the white male students. You'd often times learn more with a younger adjunct, I was happy to see that the new program promoted some of the former adjuncts like Maria Gigante and Sal Cardoni to faculty, they were both really good instructors and I enjoyed taking their classes.
The program itself wasn't very diverse when I went. Almost all of the teachers were old straight white guys, except for one white woman. I don't think that that has changed too much if at all. So if you're not a white guy, you might not feel seen. And there was an incident where one of the male students said some pretty homophobic stuff to me and it was brushed under the rug because the male faculty members vouched for him. It happened in my last semester but it definitely soured me on the program. Those faculty members still teach there so that's something to be wary of.
The best aspects of the program to me are how affordable it is, if you're an Ohio resident it's dirt cheap and almost everyone there was covered with grants and scholarships. You're not gonna leave with a ton of debt. So even though the faculty and curriculum weren't great, you could in theory go to the program for nothing or next to nothing, spend time learning how to use the equipment in the cage, and teach yourself how to be a pretty good director/cine/editor by the time you leave. If you're good at learning that way, you'd probably like the program.
Cleveland has a pretty good film industry because of Ohio's film tax incentive. A few movies shoot in Cleveland every year and you can find your way onto a set interning if you really try. I had to do it for myself because the school didn't have any sort of internship connections but maybe that has changed now. The lack of any internship opportunities or career development within the program at the time meant that almost none of the alumni went on to work in film. This means that the alumni network is pretty much useless and that's a huge detriment to the program.
The last thing I'll say is that if you want an undergrad basis and you know that you're going to pursue an MFA later, this program is good because the classes were so easy that you'd leave with a really competitive GPA and a decent portfolio from having access to the equipment (again, if you teach yourself how to use it).
Started the program off with an intro film professor who had no desire to help me learn. A lot of classes you need to get through before you can do "real" classes. Can be frustrating because I would have to take Radio and TV (live broadcast) classes when I only wanted to work on film.
Film analysis and history classes are excellent. Learned a lot from watching a lot of films and talking about them in a discussion setting.
The last year was incredibly rewarding: I wrote a feature script in Advanced Screenwriting, directed three <10 minute shorts for Intermediate Film, another two <10 minute shorts for Directing Film, directed a TV episode for their network, wrote/directed one of the 10ish projects (<15 minutes) for Advanced Film. The only annoying thing about the last year is that I felt like those were the classes where they get you to really meet your fellow students, when I feel that should be something they do at the beginning of the program.
From what I've heard, you have more creative freedom here than University of Texas, Austin. But UT has a better alumni network and I know plenty of film friends who still work together that met at UT, whereas I don't talk to anyone from UNT, nor do I know anyone that is still in the film industry.
My advice: put in the work on your own, collaborate with people, stick to your vision. Some professors may not understand your work, but in the end, if you stick to your artistic guns and make something people can connect with, it will be a good film, and they'll understand it in the end.
Anonymous is undecided about recommending this film school
Studying film at SAIC can be a challenging choice.
1. amazing facilities and equipment. (it's a private art school-they are rich)
a.Red Scarlet and Steadicam for several higher-level classes and MFA students.
b. Tones of BlackMagic. if you are enrolled in any film course you can check out.
c. Have the chance to shoot on literally film film. I remember it's 16mm. Can also check out the film camera. You can also buy super-8 at the media center.
d. Lighting equipment are also amazing. there are old/traditional ones like Solar Baby, also new LED ones. Enroll in any course in the department can check out most of them.
e. plenty rigs & tracks
f. two shooting space
g. Every computer in the advance editing room uses Alienware. Private editing suite for advance courses and MFA students.
h. the film department has a professional cinema
i. Free apps, like Davinci.
2. Amazing professor and TA (if you can enroll in their courses). Professors are nice and not remote, treat you as a friend.
One of my TA's film showed at Canne Film Festival. One of my professor's film showed at Berline Film Festival. however, they are always busy, so be very active and let them know about you and your work. Also very helpful for your recommendation letter.
3. very free and open, make whatever you want. It's an art school. There is no formula for making great work. (several years ago, there was actually a pornography class, but it's gone)
4. thesis work can be shown in professional cinema in downtown Chicago
5. The school owns one of the best art museums in the US and it's free for SAIC students. Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, Pollock, Warhol... Great resources to develop esthetic.
1. It's an art school, not a film school. not much connection to the industry.
2. expensive. but it's easy to get the scholarship
3. easy to get lazy, no pressure. if you only want to pass the course and don't want to work, you can make a piece of shit and bullshit about the theme of your work, this can work. Your classmates can be one of them.
4. classmates might be troublesome if they are the type of person I mentioned in 3. They won't say anything at the critique. If they are your crew, wish you are strong enough to finish your work on your own.
5. if you're not interested in art at all, don't come, or this place will make you crazy. there're at least 4 required art history courses, so a lot of art history papers are waiting for you. and people here, most of them are artists.
6. no campus. The school has several buildings at the center of downtown Chicago.
7. Freezing winter. little chance to shoot outside in winter, because the battery will die and the snow can cause overexpose.
Admin isn't sure who is full time and who is online.
I have an MFA in TV production that I haven't used in 30 years. I took the one-week film making course to morph from TV jargon to film and update from analog to digital. Some of the professors were the best I've ever seen. The course only required a one to two-minute unedited film project, but it inspired me to do a nine-minute film I uploaded to YouTube, and it got me recognition from local independent film makers. I then took the 15-week Screenplay Story and Structure course and completed two complete outlines of movies. I have now entered the second 15-week course and hope to have one script ready to produce locally and another for marketing by April. I think NYFA is well worth the money if you're serious about film making and ready to put your time and energy into it. The administration, however, leaves much to be lacking. I could not enter the first course ontime because they wanted me to prove I had a high school education, even tho my application showed an MFA. The second course used info from my first course and went smoothly. But now they've updated their info entry system and seem to be more worried about my skin color than my qualifications to continue. I don't understand why they are doing this, but I hope they straighten it out soon.
Great student body that's full of super hardworking, kind, creative people
You don't start taking film classes until sophomore year
More documentary and fine-arts/experimental geared (might be a pro for some folks)
RISD's film major (called Film / Animation / Video) is split into three tracks: Animation, Live-Action (narrative and documentary), and Open Media (which is experimental and installation work). I did the Live-Action track. The Animation track/department is excellent. Live-Action was pretty good when I was there and seems to have gotten better since then. I loved my professors and the classes I took. RISD is a school that cares about traditional academics - you're required to take a bunch of liberal arts classes, which they have a great offering of, or you can take some of them at Brown.
You have to apply with a portfolio of artwork because you aren't applying to a specific major and you spend your first year doing "foundation" classes, which is a mix of English and art history classes and three studio classes a semester, which are Drawing, Spatial Dynamics (basically just sculpture), and Design.
The live-action track has some great professors and pretty good equipment considering the size of the program (small). Access varies based on what year you're in (seniors get priority). I will say that when I attended, they do teach you narrative filmmaking, and you can take directing classes, it does feel more like an art school and less like a traditional film school/program. It is great for documentary filmmaking, animation, or fine art, but it's not an industry school. It was a great place to develop a style/voice, learn the basics of filmmaking, and explore different concepts. I definitely left with a sense of being a jack of all trades, which is great in some ways because it opens up a lot of weird, cool opportunities, but in other ways, you might leave feeling like you're not really prepared for any real film job.
The culture there was really serious, but really grounded. I loved going there and living in Providence.
I studied in the MFA cine program for one year and deferred due to the corona virus, but decided not to return to the program, mainly due to disillusionment with the quality of the classes.
The first semester, everyone is required to take a class called "Story". To be blunt the class was kind of a joke. It involved reading stories like The Tell Tale Heart and the Oedipus myth, stories which basically every high school American is exposed to at some point. The homework was also pretty mind numbing and reminiscent of high school busy work, which makes you wonder why graduate students are being subjected to it. Furthermore, why are cine students forced to take an acting class their second year?
The only classes that I thought were useful were the ones specific to my discipline--cinematography. And that's the problem with Chapman's MFA program for production-- it should actually be a condensed two year degree like AFI. I would have loved to have taken all the cine classes, ignored the rest, and graduated much sooner and cheaper, but unfortunately that's the con of a curriculum that's predetermined.
Based on my experience of the program it's designed more for students who haven't had much prior production experience.
Unfortunately, I don't think Chapman does a very good job of preparing those students who do have less experience than others. The first semester cine students are required to make a project called a 3-2-1, yet are given pretty much zero instruction in the very basics of lighting. Two cine students dropped out right after the first semester because they realized it makes no sense to pay all that money for lessons that weren't even given. People go to film school to be taught and instructed in an organized way, not to figure everything out on their own. That's what YouTube is for. During the second semester, lighting was finally covered in more detail... after over 20K had already been spent by every student.
The philosophy at Chapman is actually that students are supposed to get most of their hands on practical knowledge by volunteering on student sets. Which is fine. That's why I dropped out. Because why pay money to work on sets when I can work on sets for free without paying? And that's the problem. The students I've worked under certainly know things that I've learned from, but there's no way of knowing what it is you don't know unless you actually have an experienced professor teaching you. Maybe more of that happens in the second year, but I didn't care to risk all that money to find out.
The second, and possibly most important, issue that I believe holds Chapman back is the quality of the students they admit. Networking is a huge part of film school, so if your classmates aren't that special, then you're in trouble. I'm not speaking about my fellow cine students, but mainly the quality of the directing students. Many seemed to have a working knowledge of cinema limited to Marvel and Christopher Nolan. Which I guess is fine if you want to try to make films like those. Others liked to spout trite and poorly reasoned regurgitations of the latest pop woke tropes, which I suppose is also fine if you want to direct Coke commercials. But if you want to make meaningful independent cinema... well, there weren't too many unique, truly authentic voices to be found in that bunch.
I know someone who attends AFI, and based on what I've heard the gulf between the quality of students at AFI and Chapman isn't very close. The resumes of the AFI students knock those of the Chapman students out of the park. Many have already shot, edited, or directed a feature, and many have legitimately impressive connections (connections are definitely not required to gain admission though). If you want to surround yourself with people very likely to be successful, you'll have a much better shot at AFI.
Demographically, most of the students in the whole graduate program (not just MFA cine) are white or international Chinese students. A very small percentage are black, and I'm not really sure what accounts for this disparity other than that Orange County itself has a very small black population, and black students probably prefer attending programs in LA where there is a much bigger local black population. The high number of international Chinese students makes networking somewhat difficult, as there can unfortunately be a bit of a language and cultural barrier. This group is kind of cliquey, probably because it streamlines things for them to work with those who speak the same native language. But they're also very good at connecting with fellow Chinese students at the other big schools like USC and AFI.
Honestly, I don't like referring to Chapman as a film school. They are currently phasing out all their film cameras, and much of the interest and excitement attending students have appears to be focused on digital TV production more than anything else. It is definitely not a cinema lover's school, although I was lucky to meet a few like minded people there. While I was disappointed overall, I'm glad I went for the one year I did. I learned some things I didn't know about cinematography before, and made some connections with people I will be working with in the future. But for those who want the best MFA experience, I suggest looking elsewhere.
No filmmaker is so great that Carl Haber cannot help them improve and explore the full extent of their potential. I have had the pleasure to take a handful of courses from Carl at RIFS and in addition to being one of the most interesting and kind people you will meet in your life, Carl is boundlessly generous with his over 40 years of industry wisdom, and picking his brain is a true gift for anybody interested in cinema. Before taking classes with RIFS, I had already completed film school and worked on every type of project from music videos to shorts to feature films and commercial productions, and I have never felt more confident in my ability as a creator than with the knowledge I acquired from RIFS. The courses I took from Carl have given me clarity in the process and made me comfortable pushing the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of. Carl believes in his students and advocates for them to the utmost of his ability. If you want to become a better filmmaker, you would be foolish to leave this opportunity unexplored. 10/10 stars, full endorsement from me.
Terrible communication between faculty and students
Directing track held on a pedestal above other tracks
Understaffed and inexperienced faculty
Complicated and frustrating equipment policies
Administrative red tape and bureaucracy halts real meaningful progress
No real access to Steiner studios and the lot beyond “campus”
Unreasonable and asinine covid-19 policies
Illustrating everything that is wrong with this school would take over an hour, and I have neither the time nor patience for that. To avoid being redundant, I would read the other one star review for Feirstein, as it paints an accurate picture of the amount of chaos and the lack of clear communication that happens at the school every day.
Many of those problems existed before the covid-19 pandemic, and have since been amplified by it. Waiting to get a reply from the Feirstein admin for project approvals can take up to a week, often with projects being given a red light or canceled the night prior to a shoot (after considerable time and resources have been spent in pre-production). Furthermore, different faculty members will give different answers regarding to whether you’re allowed to film, which makes the whole Feirstein experience feel like a joke. I understand that the school is fairly new, but that doesn’t excuse the appalling level of miscommunication and lack of communication.
The price of tuition might seem alluring compared to other well known film schools, but the price does not justify the terrible experience, and in the end you’ll probably end up spending more money renting and acquiring gear because your shoot got cancelled last minute, or if they decide to withhold certain pieces of equipment they promised you for some reason.
It took me a while to write this review but when I saw there were none from current students I felt it was important to do so. I came to Feirstein two years ago because it was an exciting new program and it was half the price of most NY-based schools. I was looking forward to being part of a diverse group of students and being on a working studio lot. I had a background in the film industry but not in cinematography and was hopeful the next three years would prepare me for a career as a DP.
Firstly, I’d like to just say that the “only film school on a working lot” is a SCAM. You will never actually go on the lot. You will see all sorts of things happening beyond the gates but you will never be allowed through. The school does not facilitate any internships, tours, classes, mentorship programs, on the lot. Nobody from the lot comes to the school. So if that’s something that sounds enticing—it’s a literal scam.
Now, to the school itself: a few weeks into our first semester, the director of the school announced he was leaving. He had built the school up from the beginning and people were upset and surprised. He would only be replaced 2 years later, this past fall. So for two years our school did not have a director. It was a mess—nobody was handling larger issues at the institution and everyone in a leadership position constantly claimed it wasn’t their job to handle those issues.
As a DP in an MFA program, I, along with the rest of my cohort, was surprised to learn we weren’t taking any cinematography classes in the first semester. That got changed after we complained enough for the next year’s cohort.
In the spring semester, we finally got to take ONE practical cinematography course. This course ran concurrently with a workshop for directors in which the DPs from our class would shoot the scenes from the director’s workshop. But the classes were entirely separate so the DPs didn’t have any idea what we were shooting until pre-light the night before. During a pre-light session for one directing student’s class exercise shoot, a few DPs assigned to the camera crew for the exercise showed up one evening to see the student director and another student (a fellow director who was acting in the scene as a favor) blocking the scene. A few minutes into rehearsal, the male director told our classmate to remove her top and bra. She did. The camera team had no idea this was happening and immediately felt uncomfortable — however we were all under the impression that the director had cleared all this with the classmate, professor (who was not on the sound stage), and the administration. When a faculty member happened to walk in on the shoot, he shut it down and immediately reported it. The camera team was in shock to later find out none of it was sanctioned. The next day, I overheard the professor of the class making a joke about taking his clothes off. After bringing in the Dean of Brooklyn College for a meeting that week, we added a nudity and intimacy clause to the student safety rule book that hadn’t yet existed. The only reason this change was made was because a group of a few female students fought their asses off to get it done. The entire ordeal was traumatizing for the student and for the others who were present. These are the kinds of incidents that happen at a school that has no idea what the hell it’s doing.
In the second year, tension between the directors and the other disciplines were constantly being dealt with. The de-facto head of the cinematography department went on sabbatical that fall and nobody replaced her. So there was nobody looking out for the DPs. Due to the track system, a hierarchy exists at the school, in which directors rule all, and everyone else (screenwriters, DPs, editors) is there to “serve their vision.” The directors have incredible department heads that advocate for them. The DPs did not. Directors were continuously putting DPs in unsafe and uncomfortable situations and nobody had our back when we complained.
Due to no leadership at the school, the curriculum often made no sense. In the fall of our second year we had a new professor who kept teaching us basics we had already covered. When we reached out to him and politely informed him that we knew what he was teaching us already, he threw a tantrum. After that, he continued to behave inappropriately and immaturely in class and eventually, the entire cinematography cohort stopped attending class in protest. Finally, the interim director of the school promised us the professor would be fired. We showed up to the next class and he was there. When we asked the interim-director why, he said he was mistaken in how much power he had to fire professors.
In the 4 semesters I spent at Feirstein, I only had one class in which my work was critiqued. That was our first production class for our MOS films. At the end of the semester each 1st year student’s film is critiqued by faculty and although it’s a terrifying experience, it obviously makes you a better filmmaker. Since then, in all of my classes, I have never had my work critiqued. My classmates and I begged for it—we asked every professor for an end of the semester critique of our work and it never happened. What kind of film school doesn’t critique student’s work??
I’m only listing the most egregious issues that I faced in my two years at Feirstein. It has been a complete disaster from start to finish. I can tell you about a couple of great teachers and the incredible equipment room filled with the best gear. And I made friends who I know I can call on for help with any project I work on in the future. But honestly, none of those things were worth the constant stress of being a student there. The student body is incredibly diverse and hardworking and talented. However I can only speak for the cinematography track and that has been a train wreck of an experience for me, and I know that sentiment is shared by many in my cohort. We have not and did not get the attention and eduction we paid for. That’s why I’m leaving and starting over at NYU. I’m so lucky to have that opportunity and the resources to do so. I can only hope that Feirstein gets better with time.
I had a great time here but that was back in the late 90s
Passionate Student Body
Professors are also working in the industry
24/7 access to Post Production (You're gonna need it)
Equipment and stock
A lot of white guys (maybe its different now)
I loved NYU. I was a pre-med student who transferred in 1999 and graduated 2001. I received two scholarships, multiple grants and loans. They had a Director's Series -- where a director would come in and talk about their movie before it was released (i.e. Wes Anderson and Bill Murray came in to talk about Rushmore), student film festivals, 24/7 editing when finals and midterms were looming. I'm friends with many of my classmates today and majority of us are working in the industry. Having the NYU name definitely helps, especially if an alumni in the industry discovers your commonality. It also prepared me for what the industry would be like -- half of them white guys bossing you around, the other half who'll help you out if you have something that's going to help them first. My classmates were similar (only four women in my transfer class) but I don't blame them, it's what was taught. I highly suggest joining the clubs, the work-study was easy (I worked on the 12th floor for the Television Studios for Koqui and the 3rd floor for Drama) and the internships were amazing. My professors cared about my work and were/are working in the industry. My advisor was an editor for Spike Lee and now does documentaries for HBO. Definitely good for the name, better for the friendships and relationships you create and maintain for the next 20 years.
Screenwriting Program Review by a Second Year Student
Variety of Courses
Graduate Teaching Instructor Opportunities
Focused on Storytelling at it’s core
No overlap with production prescribed into curriculum
Conflicting Perspectives from Faculty
Current student in the screenwriting MFA program at BU.
There’s a lot to love in this program, I think overall it is one of the more underrated screenwriting programs in the nation, and I don’t say that because I go here, or maybe I do . Biases aside, the course work is really great, and it’s all done within very intimate settings. The cohort of the program is by design small, with the department capping the program at 12 students each year. As a prospective student, this does make your chances of getting into the program that much harder, but as an admitted student, trust me when I say it really helps. The small class sizes allow for you to really get to know your peers and their style of writing, to the point where you can easily recognize someone’s story and their voice, even if you didn’t know it was their piece. Beyond that, the course work is challenging, but it does expand upon your abilities as a writer, and the focus on storytelling not only helps your screenwriting, but fiction too if you are also versed in that.
Downsides to the program, the faculty has varying opinions on a number of different screenplay formatting rules, and storytelling principles. It leads to a confusing take on what should be an educational experience. You find yourself wondering how you should write depending on what a particular Professor is looking for. That being said, different perspectives truly help educate, so while it may be confusing at times, I think the overall effect of these different perspectives is a positive one.
Industry connections, job opportunities, professional training, abundance of sets, equipment, sound stages
Can be pretentious
I started my USC adventure as a Theatre major. I quickly discovered that I needed to change paths, and film had always been of interest. I thought to myself, what better place to pursue film than USC? I’m grateful that in many ways that assumption was proved correct. Though I was not a production major - I was Cinema and Media Studies - I did get to spend a lot of time with students, faculty, and alumni from all of the programs USC offers. What a diverse and wonderful group of people! It’s a difficult program to critique and review because so much of it depends on one’s own drive, desires, and expectations. I wasn’t anticipating anything in particular, had never taken a film class, and was immediately blown away by the theaters, the sound stages, the access they grant to top notch equipment, and the faculty’s shared interest in providing the best education possible for their students. That being said, there are certainly a few things to take into consideration. USC prides itself on being the ‘best’ film school in the country. Are they? I can’t say definitively yes or no, but they certainly believe themself to be. That kind of attitude can be a bit off-putting and intimidating at times. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t students and faculty members who carried themselves as ‘better than’ simply because they were apart of this institutions film program. Thankfully this was not a majority, however, I encountered that type of character enough for it to make a lasting impression. USC is a very privileged place, it’s also an incredibly expensive one. That’s another area to consider. I never needed to apply for scholarships so I cannot speak on their implementation and how helpful they are, I do recognize that USC is one of the more expensive undergraduate colleges and that shouldn’t be forgotten. In regards to my program and what separated it from the Production BFA, the biggest difference would be the freedom to decide what courses and direction you’d like to take. Cinema Media Studies contains numerous fields of requirement but offers multiple different courses that will fulfill those areas. The BFA in production, however, is much a stricter schedule in which you’ll be attending a very structured curriculum with your designated cohort. The benefits of that being you get to experience everything together with a small group of people who you’ll spend your entire career at USC working with. That forms strong and indelible bonds that replicate those in the professional world. It also means if there’s friction, unfortunately it’ll just have to be dealt with and endured. Cinema Media Studies consists predominantly of lectures, however, as an SCA student you’ll be granted to take screenwriting courses, production courses, and a myriad of others. Though on set experience was not the main focal point, there were plenty of opportunities and courses to get it. Should you find yourself wanting more, SCA offers the chance to apply to the BFA program even after declaring a major and being admitted. I believe the Production BFA is more helpful in terms of attaining professional-world experiences and learning the industry. Since Production majors spend every weekend writing shorts, on set, editing, and switching positions throughout the semester, it’s a great microcosm of what to expect after graduation. You will learn every single role on a film set, and chances are you will fulfill every role at one point or another. You’ll also be able to apply for thesis projects as an upperclassman which are then premiered in a wonderful theater open to the public. Cinema Media Studies doesn’t have that same kind of exposure, nor does it replicate professional circumstances. It’s more focused on the history of film, how film has evolved globally, the iconographies of different eras, and how to ’properly’ read a film. Any more experience is up to the undergraduate themselves to seek out. All of that being said, simply by being an SCA student numerous internship opportunities will arise. They won’t be handed to you for merely being an SCA student, but there is a weight to that title that provokes the image of a certain type of character who is diligent, knowledgeable, and always up to the task. Balancing internships and classwork, though challenging, never felt like too much even in the semesters I was taking twenty plus units. USC also boasts a tremendous alumni network from Kevin Feige, and George Lucas to Judd Apatow and Robert Zemeckis. Though it’s not the most pleasant thing to admit, names like that help. People in the industry are familiar with SCA and the alumni network is full of impressive artists who are constantly working and looking to help out fellow Trojans. All in all I greatly enjoyed my time at USC and SCA. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was my dream school, and ended up becoming a reality that I truly couldn’t have anticipated. I strongly recommend it, despite knowing it might not be for everyone. Fight on.
I attended this summer program in 2019. I wanted to try out directing in an environment where I would get feedback on my work and where I could feel safe trying out things -- ie: a school environment. But I wasn't ready to commit to an MFA, having only ever co-directed one short film once.
On the other hand, I did have quite a bit of film experience already, having worked camera on small shoots, script supervised a feature and a few shorts, and worked as a Post PA and Assistant Editor on big budget, union shows. I knew my way around a set, I just had not directed.
Most summer programs take you through the filmmaking process once through, from script to final edit, but this programs lets you do it three times: once with a group-developed, almost improvised scene/short; once with your own silent scene/short; and finally with your own dialog scene/short. That's a huge advantage, because you get to learn from your mistakes and put the new knowledge into action immediately. And you get to try different things.
The lead instructor -- Udayan Prasad -- is fantastic. He's a great working director who clearly loves teaching and has lots of experience as a teacher and on set. He doesn't condescend, he gives you honest feedback, he is never rude, he doesn't play favorites.
The class has 12 students and you all crew each others simple shoots and exercises at first, with additional help of TAs. Editors are provided for all exercises, mostly MA students -- I thought our editors were great. For your final project, professional actors, a DP, and a sound recordist come in to work on your piece. And they are indeed pros, I was delighted by the quality of the people who agreed to be in our little school projects. A real treat.
You'll have multiple classes on acting and directing actors. You'll also have a class on coverage and camera angles; classes on storytelling, on POV.
You will also have sessions with other professionals: Screenwriter, Cinematographer, Editor, Production Designer, Composer/Sound Mixer. Everyone was really solid, caring, knew their stuff backwards and forwards, was seasoned. The Screenwriting, Cinematography, and Editing instructors stick around for your film projects to give insight as you work on them and feedback once you present the final. Their involvement is really great.
Our class was maybe 1/3 people working in the film industry already, many others currently or recently in film school, and a few who had not studied film or worked in it, but were interested in pivoting into film / directing. Ages from 21 to 42 I think. Many different backgrounds and experience levels and I think we all got a lot out of it. This may be the rare class that serves experienced people as well as novices.
Having said that, if you have already directed a few short films, feel comfortable working with actors, and understand the process from idea to script to casting to shoot to edit, then this may not be as useful. Are Udayan's insights about story really good? Yeah they are! But if you have made a bunch of shorts already, those insights alone may not be worth the price.
Which brings me to the one con: It is an expensive course. I had plenty of savings and I decided to dedicated a calculated chunk of them to this. When you add cost of airfare to/from London, housing, and food (none of which are included in tuition), it gets extra expensive. Tuition, airfare & local transport, lodging (with an extra week), food (extra week), and incidentals came just under US$9,000. You could take the same budget and make a short film on your own. I wanted the instruction, so I chose this, but I think finances should be taken into account before committing to an expensive 3-week course like this one.
I'm glad I took this class. I learned I do love directing, I love being on set with actors, and I have a long way to go before I'm really really good. I also learned to look at film in a different way, to question its visual and aural choices more. Finally, I learned how much I love the scripting part of it and am now applying to Screenwriting MFAs. For me, this course served its purpose and then some.
*Please take this with a grain of salt, as I went to NU over a decade ago. While I was there:
Classes in film theory and screenwriting were great
Professors were also good and caring
The major was called Radio/TV/Film and offered various certificates (for example, in Sound Design) - but it was quite difficult to achieve certificates in your 4 years there because not all courses were always offered
Extensive film "cage" where you could rent out equipment fairly regularly
Extracurriculars / few film grants for film students felt very "insider-y" and at times nepotistic (upper classmen who ran and allotted student film grants seemed very much to just give it to underclassmen "friends")
Not much diversity in the student body or in the major
Didn't particularly feel prepared for post-graduation by the School of Communications or the university
Major itself does not have much of a technical / production focus. I would say it leaned more toward film theory/media studies and screenwriting.
I did have a good experience with their Financial Aid, which made it possible for me to attend an otherwise very expensive school. It is a very high academically achieving student body, so if you want to explore another double major, etc. in addition to a film degree, this would be a great school to attend and learn. I'd caution though that it might be difficult to get a job in the film/tv industries unless you can snag internships in LA/NY during the summers (also very costly), because the School of Comms doesn't necessarily prepare you very well for a post-grad professional career. Ultimately, your journey is very much up to you and what you make of your time while in school and the years following.
Anonymous is undecided about recommending this film school
I was enrolled in the 1-year Direction certificate course in the TV wing in the session 2018-19. Following are the pros and cons that I observed/experienced:
1. Huge and Active Alumni Network.
FTII alumni are everywhere, from all the film industries to advertising, to documentary films, to government film organizations. It is often extremely easy to connect to them too. The departments often call them over for workshops and sessions. I had the privilege to attend an Acting session by Vinay Pathak, Directing ground realities by Abhishek Chaubey, Screenplay writing by Kiran Yadnyopavit, Non-Fiction Films by Sankalp Meshram, Documentary filmmaking by Jasmine Kaur and Avinash Roy, Dialogue writing by Manasvi Sharma, Camera Lensing by Tribhuvan Babu, all in the span of a year. And apart from these, so many of them are just often visiting/hanging out at the campus.
2. NFAI in close proximity, Daily Screenings.
At FTII, daily screenings are a ritual. You don't miss it. Nobody misses it. National Film Archive of India happens to be at a stone's throw from the campus and almost half of the screenings happen there, the other half at the Main theatre on the campus. Films range from Satyajit Ray's classics to contemporary indie, to world classics, to French new wave, to week-long Asian cinema screenings, to Indian regional gems, to Irani cinema followed by long discussions, and documentaries that at times end up brewing political trouble.
Oh and FTII lot takes screenings very seriously, no phones, no murmurs, no food inside the theatre. You'll be asked to leave if you don't abide by the rules.
3. Award-winning films and filmmakers.
Nearly every year FTII films win at the National Film Awards, get shown at numerous international film festivals, and Cannes' student film winner this year, in 2020 is an FTII production called CatDog.
4. Extremely affordable.
For an Indian national, you pay INR 1.5 lacs, which frankly, is peanuts as compared to other film schools in the country. The amount covers your tuition fee and hostel fee. For foreign nationals, the price is higher but still remains on the lower end when compared to other CILECT film schools. Technically your projects are also financed from the same amount.
You live in the cultural capital of Maharashtra, in the greenest and one of the most beautiful parts of the city. The city itself happens to be an education hub, so hope to meet people from almost all states, if not also countries. Extremely safe, quite cheap to live in too. A lot to explore in every way possible.
1. Slow, very slow.
FTII comes under the IB Ministry of the Government of India. Every purchase/change/decision has to be approved by the ministry before it is acted upon. Too much red tape to make sense of. A certain set of equipment requested by a certain batch was actually made available in the next year. Improper scheduling of course exercises often stretches them for months more than they were supposed to be.
2. Lack of a formal work/placement division
Because of the alumni network and the brand that FTII is, in the Indian film scenario, work is never impossible to find. It however can be very tough if you're not very good at marketing yourself. Lack of a formal hiring situation means that it's the word of mouth that gets or doesn't get you any work.
3. Interdepartmental issues.
A lot of issues between the TV and Film departments at administrative levels and often tangle things up.
4. Fitting in
You might feel out of place if you haven't mugged up every single detail about every single critically acclaimed film in the world and can't drop names. I did, so did a lot of other classmates who had grown up on a steady diet of commercial films. However, a lot of times, people are quite literally just dropping names, and know nothing. At others, the discussion will open the door to new films.
4/5, recommended if you get through, because hey, the intake is 10 per course, with a rigorous week-long orientation and interview session. However, if you're an Indian national, definitely explore the place, go talk to existing students, get an idea of how the place functions (also because it has a very set way of working and you either fit in or you don't), and then decide if it is the place for you or not. Explore your options at SRFTI too.
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