Knowledgeable Instructors (Work/worked in the Industry. Some also teach at NYU Tisch)
Poor On-Campus Amenities/Campus Is Aging Poorly
I want to start off by mentioning that I came to Purchase as a transfer student from another liberal arts college and screenwriting program. This program is very much a "you get what you put in" deal. I was a student who put my all into the program, and in return I felt like I graduated with an excellent amount of knowledge in screenwriting and playwriting.
The professors are really knowledgeable and most still work in the industry. The head of the program, along with all of the professors and instructors, actually care about you as an individual. They gave great feedback and didn't mind staying after class to talk when I had questions, or just wanted advice, on anything from relevant work to your career outside of the school. They offer a variety of electives to choose from outside of the required courses, such as Television Writing, Bookwriting for the Musical, and Documentary Writing. They do work you quite a bit, helping you build from ten page screenplays in Screenwriting I to 30 page in Screenwriting II and 60 page screenplays in Screenwriting III. In your final year, you write a thesis of either a full-length play or a feature length screenplay that has to be approved and graded for you to graduate, but I've never heard of someone not finishing it.
The school itself is kind of falling apart, but they did just put in a new student dorm. I didn't live in it, so I can't review it, but I think it was generally well-liked. They also just put in a new Film & Theatre Building that looks great. I didn't get to have any classes in it because I was in my last semester, but it is brand new! There's a Starbucks on campus that takes meal swipes, three other different places to get food from with meal swipes or cash. They have dorms that accommodate different needs and financial abilities. It's also located right next to the Connecticut/New York border, so sometimes it feels like you're in the middle of nowhere. The school offers free shuttle buses daily, at different times (some days it was once an hour, others it was once every twenty minutes. I forgot the actual schedule.) that takes you to the nearest city of White Plains. There's malls, grocery shopping, a Target, and a train station that gets you to Grand Central in Manhattan.
There's plenty of internship opportunities in Manhattan if you want to do that commute once or twice a week. I did it in my senior year and I think the experience was worth it. I would just recommend that you intern somewhere in Midtown. I interned in Soho and it made my commute longer. Good news is you can work on scripts while riding from GC to White Plains. They also have Purchase Television on campus where you can intern. It's pretty laid back depending on who runs it. I think you have to be a sophomore or junior to receive credit from it.
All in all, the quality of my education was excellent. If you're looking for a cheaper alternative to NYU, or are a NYS resident, you should consider this program. Put your all into it, and think wide open!
I'd like to preface this by saying I graduated a while ago. It's possible that the school has changed significantly since then so take what I say with a grain of salt. Also, I made quite a few mistakes while there. Columbia College is a giant hub that draws in everybody from the Midwest. I feel like I know more people from Michigan than anywhere else in the world. You meet a lot of people in undergrad. Tons of students and they're all pipelined out to Los Angeles. That said, the alumni coordination leaves a little to be desired.
The big reason to go is tons of access to equipment and the ability to wheel around town and shoot whatever you want during independent study. It's an excellent trade school for its combination of hands-on experience and big alumni class. Go for an undergrad education, a solid bedrock to be followed up with an MFA. It is not a great school for writing and directing. That said, Columbia started up its Second City Program as soon as I left which likely would've been a game changer for me if it existed while I was there.
You have the ability to make an undergrad thesis with a lot of freedom. The thesis advisors aren't very hands-on. They have a Practicum Program that when I was there seemed like a great idea, designed in the style of AFI but it wasn't there in execution. Hopefully it's improved since then. It's a great idea. When I was there, it was a chaotic school without much direction and a lot of kids running around with cameras, shooting. Take all of this with a grain of salt.
Washington, DC location which offers opportunities for internships
Friendly campus atmosphere
No portfolio requirement
Only one required film production course
Some important film topics that aren't offered at AU like cinematography courses
Not enough hands on training on the equipment
Not enough film facilities or equipment on campus
I apologize for the very long post, but I have a lot of things to say about the Film and Media Arts department at AU.
I am EXTREMELY unhappy with the undergraduate Film and Media Arts program at American University and I mean that in the most respectful way.
I say that I'm unhappy because there simply wasn't enough hands on training in my courses so that when I graduated, I could make short films, documentaries and even know how to do basic video shooting and video editing. I took one required film course, Comm 331, and we didn't even have to use a film slate in our projects when we shot short films in groups.
It could have been that one professor that I had that wasn't a great teacher and maybe relied on theory too much, but I think I should have come away with more knowledge of film production. The fact that there is no film portfolio requirement confuses me. It's like an art major not having to create a portfolio of their paintings and drawings before they graduate. I think there is nothing good about that and how does a university know a student can be successful in their chosen career field if they don't have to do a portfolio or a senior thesis as a requirement in order for them to graduate? I think the curriculum has a lot of holes in it that need to be filled in for the sake of the students.
I also have to acknowledge that AU isn't exactly known for their film program so I shouldn't be too surprised that it's not on par with universities that are higher ranked overall and are touted for their film departments like UCLA, NYU and USC.
Because I have experienced the program at AU, I am just sharing my experience to those who are thinking about applying as a Film and Media Arts major. If you plan to study film at AU, PLEASE choose your professors wisely. I only took one professor so I can't talk about anyone else, but I came away with little knowledge from the professor I took. And I don't think only one production course should be required. I think there needs to be at least two production courses required with a lot of different aspects covered. It's also weird that the professor didn't chaperone us when we did film shoots at least for the first time when we did it for the class. It was very independent learning and theory based, which is not appropriate for something technical like shooting a film in my opinion.
It was embarrassing as a graduate when I moved to NYC and had interviews at film production houses only for them to see right away that I was inexperienced with operating the video camera and do video editing. I didn't even have knowledge of some industry standard equipment names.
I actually learned how to do video shooting and editing when I went to graduate school at another university, which was ranked higher overall than AU and I studied journalism. I didn't even study film in graduate school and I came away with more training in video shooting and editing. It shouldn't be this way. And I mention that the other university was ranked higher because I do think rankings show the value of the courses students will take.
I feel sad that I still don't know how to do narrative films because of my experiences at AU. I feel cheated because I spent a lot of money at AU and I can't even do a basic short film or a professional documentary.
So, I recommend that if you go to AU, be prepared for the lack of hands on training in the film department. I'm sure the other departments at AU are fine. I took gen ed courses in other departments and they were fine. But, I feel like the film department is extremely lacking as far as hands on training and focuses too much on theory.
I don't mean to sound bitter or bash AU, I'm just being very honest and straightforward because I want people to know about my personal experience as a way to provide insight.
If I could do it all over again and planned to study film, I would have chosen a different university that had better film resources and facilities with a hands on learning approach.
Your college decision and major are one of the most important decisions that you will make in your life. Please choose wisely.
On a positive note, I did meet very nice people at AU. I was very happy there. The students in general are extremely welcoming and caring and the faculty do care about the students. But, the film courses I took were not industry standard in my opinion.
AU's SOC Department focuses on famous faculty and alumni as a draw, which is misleading. A school shouldn't advertise these people as a way to persuade people that prospective students will learn so much in film if the teaching process doesn't display this. Some alumni of any university can learn most of their craft on their own without the help of the university.
You just really got to do your research not only in your major because you might change that when you start university, but do research on the entire department that you are interested in so you can have a good perspective on what to expect when you take classes.
I am hoping there is a way for me to learn narrative film production in the future because I yearn to still know how to do this professionally.
Again, I apologize if I sound bitter or severely critical of my review of the program. I know it's hard to read tone when someone is writing a post. It's more of me coming from an honest place instead of an angry place. I am disappointed though and that is obvious in my post.
Excellent choice for a well-rounded film education experience
On Set Experience
Access to internships
LMU's Film and Television Production MFA program is a great choice for students who want a well-rounded film education. You are able to make both fiction/non-fiction films and can choose electives that suit your interests and goals. There are also quite a few teaching assistantships and campus jobs available to students. The Westchester and Playa Vista campuses are both beautiful and we have access to all Hollywood has to offer as far as talent, locations, props, equipment, internships, gigs, etc. Going to school at LMU and living in LA is expensive and you must be prepared to navigate a city that is nonstop and quite hectic a lot of the time, but I've found that the pros definitely outweigh the cons.