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I have loved this program so far! For me, it was the right move. Coming from out-of-state, I learned a lot about LA and housing, but it could have been worse. With the loans from FA, I was able to move relatively stress-free.
I have met like-minded individuals who are hungry to make a career for themselves in this industry. The professors are incredibly helpful, intelligent, and know what they're talking about. They care about students and their success.
The one thing I wish the program did a better job of was connecting us to industry professionals with the intention of getting our work out there. I feel like they should want their alumni to do well in the industry, so a little bit of a push would be great. But at the same time, they offer real advice about breaking in. It's tough but they are supportive.
In my opinion, the University of Chicago's Cinema & Media Studies program is one of the most outstanding and underrated programs out there. I loved my experience getting a B.A. in CMS! (There's also a PhD program, but I'm speaking about my experience as an undergraduate.) However, it's not for everyone. I'll run through a list of important points that anyone considering the program should be aware of.
1. Core Classes. Every student in the College at UChicago must complete a large number of rigorous Core Classes ranging from physical and biological sciences, mathematics, and social sciences to arts and humanities. In fact, these Core Classes will take up about a third of your studies as an undergraduate. If you want to go to a school where you'll just be studying your major, UChicago is not for you. However, if you are open to it, I think having the opportunity to take classes in such a variety of disciplines actually ends up benefitting you.
2. Major requirements. There are a few prerequisite courses for the major including Intro to Film (basically a crash course in analysis and film language), plus a two-quarter sequence called History of International Cinema. I was lucky enough to be taking the History sequence when two very well-known professors were teaching it, and it's still one of my favorite classes. I believe more recently the course has been expanded to a three-quarter sequence (when I was a student, it covered silent through 1960, but now it covers film up to present day).
3. Thesis. Majors are required to complete either a written or intensive-track production thesis. The majority of students opt to do a written thesis, and all students must enroll in an additional seminar to prepare for their research, find a faculty advisor, and work with a graduate preceptor. You are also expected to provide periodic peer feedback to your classmates on their work and progress during this seminar. Writing a thesis was simultaneously one of the most terrifying and rewarding undertakings during my time as an undergraduate, but I'd say it's well worth the pain. Not only do you get to develop a relationship with and receive personal feedback from a professor, but also the research skills and knowledge you gain from the process is a big plus. My thesis was called From Canvas to Camera: F.W. Murnau's Intertextual Filmmaking Practice (I wrote a joint thesis with the Art History department, and both departments were very accommodating about allowing me to choose an interdisciplinary topic because of my second major). For my few classmates who did production theses, their films were screened at the end of the year for everyone to see.
4. Facilities. I was very impressed with the facilities available. The majority of my classes were held in theaters either at Cobb Hall where the Film Studies Center is, or at the new Logan Center for the Arts which houses several state-of-the-art theaters as well. Logan also includes the Logan Media Center, which offers free training courses (I took a free training course in video editing in my spare time), a darkroom, printing facilities, equipment available for students to check out and work on projects, and a brand new computer lab with editing software. The majority of the film screenings for my cinema classes took place at Logan, which was really exciting because the facilities truly are top-notch. (You're also welcome to attend other courses' screenings!) Logan Center website: Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts | UChicago Arts | The University of Chicago
5. Events. There is something happening literally every single day. Special guests are constantly being brought in (one of my classes got to meet Agnes Varda as she personally guided us through her exhibition at the Logan Center), and there is always an abundance of lectures to attend. I remember at Halloween, Rockefeller Chapel did a screening of Faust with live organ accompaniment.
6. Doc Films. This is one of the most incredible student film societies ever. Located at Max Palevsky Cinema on campus, students create the programming of films to be shown each night of the week, every single night. For instance, Monday nights might be dedicated to a particular director, Tuesdays for a specific genre, Wednesdays for films about a relevant theme, etc. Saturdays are dedicated to new releases, and Thursdays are double features. LET THIS SINK IN!!! Not only are there multiple showtimes each night, but EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK you could go see a film ($5 per film, or $30 for a season pass)!!! Students in Doc Films take turns introducing the films before they begin, students serve as the projectionists, students create the programming, students bring in special guests (once they brought in Woody Allen for a Q&A, but it was before I was a student there)... students do it all! Furthermore, Doc Films is committed to screening films in their original formats (I remember once they had someone come out and apologize for having to project a Blu-Ray). This is an incredible opportunity not only for those interested in running a cinema, but also for any cinema fans. I had such an amazing time diving into all kinds of films screened at Doc, and I regret not joining as a volunteer. Check out their website: doc films
7. Fire Escape Films. FEF is a student-run film production organization at UChicago, so if you want to get some hands-on production experience to go with all the theory you study in class, this is a great opportunity. Directors choose from student-written scripts, and members of FEF team up into crews to produce the films and screen them in their own film fest at Max Palevsky cinema. Equipment and resources come from the Logan Media Center, so students don't need to worry about paying for tech. FEF also runs a cool 24-hour film festival where you camp out in Logan and create an entire short film within the time limit. Here's FEF's Vimeo: Fire Escape Films
8. Film Studies Center. This serves as a supplemental resource for the Cinema & Media Studies program. They have an impressive library of films to check out as well as screenings rooms you can reserve. (In addition, the University's library system also has an enormous library of media available to you. If there's something they don't have, put in a request and they'll buy it!) FSC website: Profile | Film Studies Center
9. Study abroad. UChicago has tons of study abroad programs, and the funding to back it up (I studied abroad 4 times). One program I did was a Spring Quarter in Paris with four courses; one on 19th Century Art in Paris Museums, one on Godard, one on Hegel, and one in French. It was an incredible opportunity to study Godard's work while being able to inhabit the spaces of his films and take field trips to places like the Cinémathèque Française and Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, among others. Plus, it counted toward my major requirement!
10. Classes. Prerequisites aside, the majority of the classes are small and seminar-style. This usually means doing a lot of reading for homework, followed by intense class discussions and debates. You're encouraged to think critically about the texts you've read, and "exams" are usually in the form of final papers where you draw on analyses of the films you watched, texts you've studied, and themes from class discussions. (Side note: you're trained for this kind of class from day one, since all the Core humanities courses are conducted in this style.)
To sum up, this is an outstanding program if you are looking for a solid grounding in film analysis and theory. This is not necessarily for everyone, but I think it helped prepare me for pursuing an MFA in film production in ways that perhaps students who focused on production in undergrad might have missed out on. If you are keen on getting production experience at UChicago, it's absolutely possible if you put in the work and join some of the student organizations. Even if you're starting with zero experience, you can get the training you need outside class time with the Logan Media Center and by learning from your classmates on extracurricular projects. Meanwhile, you will learn a ton and hone in on your interests while writing your thesis and completing research.
Feel free to message me with any questions about the program! Hopefully I didn't forget anything!!
Have built an okay network there, a foundation for the network I have now
Awesome study abroad programs -- the Castle, Prague, Greece, etc
Employment office does try to help you prepare for job hunting, they can look over your resumes & host mock interviews
You have access to Emerson's film equipment (but you're often not really taught how to use them because you can only check the EQ out if you're shooting a class project)
Campus isn't super accessible for students w disabilities
Not a lot of great professors, just a lot of average ones (have definitely had a professor advertise his book to us in a lecture before)
My whole experience felt half-baked
ELA is useless, internships aren't guaranteed and the classes they have there are awful + the campus is GAUDY
You really need to join clubs/extracurriculars to build your network/get experience but you end up having to be interviewed by your peers to get in; weird environment
Can only take 4 classes per semester -- rip off?
Dorms are disgusting
Transfers are treated lesser than 4 year students
You have to take a lot of useless classes that Emerson requires to make you a "more well rounded student" but you can only take 4 classes per semester so there's less time for more concentrated classes
Some professors are just salty that they're teaching film students rather than making films themselves
I went to Emerson for my undergrad for VMA (Visual media arts, just generally the film program) and...it was a lot of fun, I certainly learned some things, but it's truly what you make of it. There are plenty of really good professors that care and want to share their knowledge with you, but a lot of classes felt useless to me. You're also only able to take 4 classes per semester which felt like a rip off. You do have smaller class sizes and Boston is an awesome college town, but I'd be lying if I said that Emerson doesn't have it's flaws. Take advantage of all the extracurriculars and clubs, sometimes you learn more from those than actual classes. Like they have comedy shows you can write/act in and be able to work in a studio, they also have the EVVYs award show you can work on (I didn't but I wish I can been a part of a big production like that). I didn't have a concentration when I was there because I didn't know what I really wanted to do yet, so I feel like I lost time while I was there (I also transferred in as a sophomore and they don't treat transfers the same as freshmen, plus you cannot attend the Castle study abroad program). The Boston classes feel like a lot of film history and not a lot of practical stuff unless you find that diamond in the rough production class (only had about 2 production classes where I actually learned things, otherwise you just kinda have to volunteer to be on student film sets).
Luckily, I was able to go to the Prague summer study abroad program and study at FAMU (the world's oldest film school) and produce my own short film, that alone made the entire Emerson experience worth it; great people and great professors there. I also did the ELA program on their Los Angeles campus my final semester and got an internship (you really have to get your own internship, not a lot of help from their network), the classes at ELA were ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE and USELESS to me, but I did end up getting a job out of my internship -- only a handful of people actually get work out of their internships so don't bank on this. The job was AWFUL (I was an assistant in a small production house and they treated me like shit, plus I felt like I was wasting my time there because I wasn't learning about preproduction, I was just an admin) and I left after a few months. I left LA altogether bc it's a terrible environment and moved in NYC, which has a much better film industry in my opinion because there's less competition than LA. However, the "Emerson Mafia" didn't help me land ANY jobs in NYC, I got all of those on my own and was successful there (before Covid rip).
This was just MY experience with Emerson, luckily I was only there 2 and a half years since I was a transfer so I got what I wanted out of it (kinda, it felt half-baked at times), but people that went there all 4 years absolutely hated it. It's a very small community but it's realistic to predict your future career in film in the way that everything relies on your reputation, if you work well with others, and if you have talent. But there's definitely a popularity hierarchy at a school this small, you really do have to find your niche. There were a lot of people who truly utilized all of Emerson's resources and came out with a lot of great student films but plenty of people just scraped by with nothing to show for it.
*note: I came in as a transfer so I wasn't able to get into the dorms, I had to move into a shitty and expensive apt near campus at the last minute bc Emerson didn't help me AT ALL.
Not the best faculty, looking back, just some diamonds in the rough. I'm sure the same things can be said for any small arts school. But they do have an employment office that helps you with resume building and interviewing, they still helped me after I graduated which was nice.
I graduated in 2013 and know several recent graduates ( 2017-2019 classes) as well. My personal and their related experiences are the basis for the sum of this review. I currently work as a DP & AC in Los Angeles. I was out of state and found it quite affordable. With some small scholarships & grants, I was only left with around $16K in student loan debt, which ain't bad at all. The film school isn't any more expensive than any other degree on campus to my knowledge. For PA residents it's a very affordable school and that is where a significant amount of the students are from for sure. Many others like myself were from surrounding mid-Atlantic states, and then you had a peppering of people from everywhere else. Philadelphia is fairly popular film making city, with lots of trickle down from NYC and good amount of local industry as well.
Temple's film program is interesting. It is relatively small and doesn't make a ton of "lists" but you'll find a surprising amount of Temple alumni with substantial careers in the industry. Temple ultimately gives you what you put into it. Among my peers, by the end of Junior year, it was clear which students would likely go on to have active careers within the film industry based on how they "moved" through the film program. When I was in the program, their where no "concentrations" and you had to forge your own from what courses were offered. It was easy to get lost as a student there. The best students recognized what they wanted to do in the industry and used whatever the school might offer to achieve it. I see now they do offer concentration tracks in cinematography, screenwriting etc. and I'm glad they made that change. I think it will help many students feel less lost. For what it's worth, the list of required and suggested elective courses for the Cinematography track very closely mirror the courses I chose to take in my time there. They don't look to be offering more than there were in 2009-2013, but they are definitely presenting it better.
The school offers modest gear and facilities, with tools that in 2020 are plenty enough to make a film with. Access was tiered and tied to classes, you aren't going to be shooting on RED or Amira until your maybe 3rd, probably 4th year. You also wont be renting out any of the "good lights" if you aren't enrolled in a lighting, cinematography or thesis course. They boasted a fairly large collection of 16mm & Super 16mm cameras and shooting film is an active part of the curriculum. Professors were generally knowledgeable and encouraging. Many of them had respectable bodies of work, especially in documentary and independent film circles. Temple is actually known to produce great documentary filmmakers. However, I found that to really learn how a set worked, what roles there were in play, what practices and techniques were considered standard and professional...I needed to not only work on any and every student project I could, but also find local sets to crew on and do my own research. Speaking particularity to cinematography and camera department, I found that the gear & practical "on set" education I got solely from courses at Temple where CRAP compared to the USC/Chapman/LMU alums I met in LA. And that is honestly to be expected...those schools have tons of money, resources, connections and of course the price tags to go with them.
Community is probably the most important thing you get from film school and this is where Temple shines to me. We stick together. The "indie" offerings from the school often force the students who really want to succeed to push each other to do so. All film schools breed tight knit relationships among students, but I felt that Temple with the backdrop of Philadelphia as your formative environment, really make for some tight bonds with the peers you knew wanted to "make it" in larger markets like LA or NYC. More formally, Temple does have a very strong Los Angeles internship program that is probably the single most crucial part of the program to consider. It definitely gave me and countless other students the legs to make it to LA after school, obviously with career connections, but also adjusting to LA living, housing, etc. There is a house LA that has served as a place for new graduates to room in (its like a 5 bedroom house) and find their footing in the city. Somewhat legendary, as the landlord is a Temple alum and its been exclusively rented (for cheap) to Temple alums for over a decade. There is also a good amount of alumni in the NYC market given its proximity to Philadelphia, and the school will support intern programs there as well. That Temple bond actually makes for a great alumni network in LA and NYC.
All in all it's a good program that will give back what you put into it. Like any film school, you should always be looking for work outside of academics...crewing on local sets, shooting beyond classes, etc. But when your school is somewhat obviously not up to snuff with the industry's latest and greatest, the drive to go the extra mile kicks in even harder. Success in this industry means you have to hustle and, even if unintentionally, Temple pushes it students to do just that. Despite Temple's lack of "hollywood training" I had just as much (and sometimes more) practical experience than those big ticket school alums, because the program inadvertently made me seek out professional opportunities pretty much from Freshman year. It's a program & environment that show you a path to success, but it's up to you to work hard and go down it.
I graduated from UofR with a double major in Film and Media Studies and Economics. My experiences at Rochester really shaped my filmmaking career, and it definitely helped me get into UCLA's Production/Directing program, which I will attend this fall.
First off, if you're looking for a technical/hands-on type of film program, this is NOT for you. I gave the UofR Film and Media Studies Program (FMS) because of the OVERALL experience and value. As a program at the university, there is no dedicated film school within the university.
Curriculum: As a program, much of the curriculum focuses on theory and narrative. There are two tracks, one for FMS Studies (theory and history) and one for FMS Production (editing, production), but the only difference is 1-2 additional production courses. Overall, you are at least taking 12 classes over four years. With how the "Rochester Curriculum" is set up, you have a LOT of flexibility in terms of what you want to study. For the curious mind, this is perfect! I have taken classes in philosophy, history, economics, and astronomy, some of which crosses into film. However, one con I do have with the curriculum is the limited number of courses in certain areas of film. Production classes here leans on editing instead of on-set production. Screenwriting is only offered every other year. Sometimes, you will need to supplement credit with different areas, like photography or sound. Again, most courses are focused on theory and history.
(If you want to make a short film using high-end equipment, there is absolutely NOTHING from stopping you. I decided to sign up for an "Independent Study" class, which allowed me to make a short film, from pre-production to post, over the course of a semester. I HIGHLY recommend this because it helped me see how much progress I have made as a filmmaker)
Class size: My graduating class was 8 people if I remember correctly, and many of the classes themselves are around 10-15 people. If you want small classes, this is it! I was able to constantly interact with professors and other students, which offered a lot of useful perspectives and insights into different techniques, cultures, and movie recommendations.
Affordability: The price tag almost scared me away from UofR, but out of my choices (UC Berkeley, University of Denver) it was the cheapest after financial aid. The school is incredibly generous with its scholarships and grants, and I came out of school with only $30k over four years! Might be a lot to some, but as an out-of-state student from Colorado, it's a bargain for a top-notch education (ironically the University of Denver would have left me closer to $60k after graduation).
Resources: This is a complete toss-up. On the one hand, most of the equipment is poor, relying on DSLR's. There is almost no stabilization equipment, and lighting isn't the best. HOWEVER, these resources are readily available, with places like Rettner Lab, Sage Art Center, and the FMS Department. Also, I think it is important to highlight the ease of access to 16 mm film cameras and projectors, which brings me to my next pro. Rochester, NY is an incredibly underrated film city, and it makes sense with its connections to Kodak. The George Eastman Museum (a mansion owned by the guy who found Kodak) hosts an incredible collection of film prints and events. One of my favorites is the annual Nitrate Film Festival, where you can watch a lot of movies that many people believed to be lost. The Little Theater is also a great place to watch indie releases. Overall, the resources at UofR really depend on what you want to do.
**Forgot to mention Todd Union, but it's an on-campus theater that has an incredible number of talented actors/actresses. There is also a strong Audio Engineering program at the school, which is helpful for catching sound.
Extracurriculars: I am definitely a little biased here since I held executive board positions in URCG and UFC, but there are 3 film-related organizations on campus. URCG hosts weekly screenings of major releases for free. URTV focuses on TV-production and has episodes aired through WRUR, the school's radio station. UFC hosts a bunch of workshops, and it is a great way to meet other film nerds all over campus! Beyond clubs, if you're looking to get your hands on-set, the FMS department will send occasionally send emails about local productions. There is also a program called "Art NY," where you hold an internship in New York City while receiving class credit. I was able to do this program, and it definitely helped with my last point:
Career Preparedness: As a program that focuses on theory, you probably won't get on set immediately after graduation. However, it helped me a LOT with networking. There is a lot of UofR alumn working in the film industry, as well as marketing. In my opinion, if you want to work in the film industry, networking is the most important skill. The Art NY program will be a great way to start off, and it helped me get another internship during my undergrad. Overall, it really depends on which field you're looking into, as well as how productive you have been.
(SIdenote: I would probably be interning/working at a film company right now, but I wanted to save some money before moving to NYC or LA. Currently, I'm in CO)
Ending Thoughts: If you're looking to learn RED cameras and on-set production, UofR might not be for you. However, if you're looking more towards writing/directing, consider UofR! While my main complaint has been the lack of resources and certain courses, I really had a blast while going here! At one point, I did transfer to Colorado Film School because I wanted to make movies, not study them. However, within a week, I dropped out of CFS because I didn't enjoy the environment. I went back to the UofR, and it was the best decision I have ever made. As someone who takes a lot of initiative, UofR fosters a great environment for creatives to start learning about filmmaking, and collaboration is key if you want to experience any success!
(PS: Apologies if this review seems all over the place. If you have any questions, drop them below!)
Funnily, I am even featured in the photo for this department (the young man with the afro). So I have had quite an interesting relationship with Hofstra. I've come to the conclusion that I was satisfied with what I received from the program; I entered Lawrence Herbert with no prior experience editing, filming, or even watching much film at all. I left with a great appreciation for all the dimensions of filmmaking. Two elements of the school are of notable appreciation/importance: the access the equipment and their facilities. The equipment is rather interesting (Digital Bolex/Film Bolexes/Black Magic Pocket), and you gain exposure to them quite early on. The lighting gear is older, but it is sufficient to begin learning the craft. And again, the early access to said gear was by far the most valuable thing when it came to the production side of things.
The other half of the major, Film Studies, was the portion of the school that formed me the most. With a proper screening room dedicated to film study lecture and exemplary film studies professors, horizons were effectively broadened. Personally, I believe their Film Studies program is not fully appreciated or talked about; but I believe it to be the most important part of the school, barring some good mentors.
My film placed 1st in the 2019 Film Festival, so you can take this review as coming from someone who really ran the gamut of this program: for an undergraduate program, it is a very good starting point for yourself. And you will have staff that know and care about you. There are improvements to be made (not enough quality film production professors to handle all students), but it is amongst the least encumbered by bureaucratic red tape when it comes to supporting the students. The film program has a real heart.
In summary: if you are looking for a program that will aid in shaping you into a thoughtful filmmaker, this is where one should enroll. Pricey, but the facilities, alumni, and key film professors make it worth it. I appreciate the role Hofstra served in my career, and I assure anyone who considers the school that it can greatly benefit you if you aim to learn filmmaking; take this from someone who was very much a complete blank slate at the beginning of my matriculation. Definitely warrants at least a tour.
If you want to work in animation or game design - THIS IS THE SCHOOL FOR YOU
You get to try a little bit of everything
You learn from working professionals
Access to local film crews and film festivals
The University is moving to "merge" the theatre and film programs so students have access to additional collaborators. (actors, designers, etc)
The program is strictly technical. There are no film design classes - (costume design, set design, etc)
The equipment is limited
They don't let first years have access to any equipment that is considered "expensive"
I initially went to this school for the film program but when I realized that I wasn't getting as many design opportunities as I wanted, I decided to double major in theatre design as well. When thinking strictly about my experience in the film department, it is important to mention that the film program is sticky technical. Writing, directing, cinematography, ad editing are the main focuses of the program. During the first "film 101" class that you have to take, you will make your short documentary and short fiction film. Later on you have access to work on large feature film length projects. The program is short, but very go-go-go. You are always working. Most students usually end up having at lease one project in a festival by the time they graduate and/or work for a local festival like Slamdance or Sundance.
I couldn't ask for anything more from a writing program. During my time at USC I interned on two TV shows run by my idols. After I graduated I got an entertainment lawyer and management through a USC professor. Then I was hired by a different USC professor to write and develop IP. Ten months later I was staffed by a yet another USC professor on a TV show. Now I also have a book deal and a
pilot in development with my dream company.
This is obviously not everyone's experience. My results were a combination of extreme hard work and lots of luck. I also came into the program with a lot of experience, TONS of failures under my belt, and very thick skin. I'm not saying the program is perfect, but it can definitely help start your career. In my opinion, that's worth the crazy price tag.