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.
Great instructors who actually care about you and your work!
As an undergrad, you can work closely with MFA students and MFA projects.
No tracks, so choose classes as you wish/interest
Plenty of opportunities to get on set (student sets, MFA sets, TSTV, Women in Film, DKA, etc.)
SXSW and Austin Film Festival (the Screenwriter's festival) are home to Austin, TX!
You own your projects
Some notable alumni but nothing compared to the numbers of USC/AFI/NYU
Matthew McConaughey's Script to Screen class
Very affordable compared to other top film schools
Although equipment is good, during peak shooting times it's difficult to get the best equipment. (Plan ahead!)
Good internships are lacking. You should probably spend your summer interning in LA/NY, if you can.
Sometimes it's hard to get into the classes you want/need.
I would say overall UT's film school is a great choice! It is rated #11 on THR's Top Film School List in the U.S. Sure it's nowhere near LA or NY but it's a great place to be. Some perks include Austin being home to SXSW, Austin Film Festival, and ATX Television Festival. These festivals are great to have in your backyard. The first two are probably the better internships to land in Austin that are film-related (I don't know about ATX).
As an undergrad, your first four (Lower Level) classes in the major are media studies based. The last of these four allows you to get your hands on equipment for the first time. So keep in mind: just because you're in a Lower Level course doesn't mean you can't go find opportunities to hop on set --> upperclassmen sets, TSTV, etc. The experience you have is what you make of it.
After completing your Lower Level courses, you are free to take almost any Upper Level or production courses (some have pre-reqs). UT has no specific tracks, so you can take classes in whatever you're interested in.
I was not a grad student but I worked on many grad sets and many of the students are your TA's. Grad cohorts are usually 12 students. For grad students, in your first year you make a short documentary (KA) your first semester, and a short narrative (KB) in your second semester. Your second year is devoted to your pre-thesis. Your third year is spent working on your thesis. Many grad films are selected for regional film festivals and even some more highly regarded film fests.
Facilities-wise: UT has five large soundstages, a few editing labs, good but sometimes older equipment to checkout, nice looking classrooms and lecture halls.
In terms of finding talent/actors, you might be a bit limited compared to LA or NYC. However, you can still find good talent from Austin, Dallas, and Houston area. UT has a great reputation in Austin for upholding professional sets. We are taught to run our sets like the unions but without actually being union-sanctioned.
UT has opportunities to study "abroad" in LA and NY with their UTLA and UTNYC programs!
The only issues I find with UT are lack of equipment during peak shooting times. You really need to plan ahead. Spring semester is usually hectic because it's when undergrad thesis films shoot. Also, some of the equipment might seem a bit outdated, specifically some of the cameras available. The higher end cameras are typically reserved for grad students. There are a couple rental houses in Austin if you want to pay for other equipment. Also, the editing labs are always full in the last two months of the semester. Everyone is trying to finish up their final projects. But you can also edit on your own laptop if you wish.
Okay now that you've read to the end: I'll spill on Matthew McConaughey's class. It is a highly competitive class, seniors and juniors (if they're lucky) usually. It is primarily taught by a UT instructor with an occasional appearance from Matthew himself (if his schedule allows). You sign multiple NDAs because the materials you study are actual materials from the films that Matthew has been in. Usually the films are current. This is a class that bridges the stuff you learn in class to practical, real world filmmaking. It's really cool! Usually it's marketed to students who want to be producers but I think it's helpful for any student who's interested.
Complete program, value, great professors, always stuff to do, responsiveness
Covid times not the schools fault
Columbia College Chicago is not only one of America's best film schools it is also one of the most affordable. The program is advertised as 2 years online but can be as long as you want it to be. They respect storytelling above all else and are extremely supportive. The communication with the head of the program is also really strong and if somebody doesn't have an answer for you they will quickly direct you to the right place. I have yet to step foot on campus because of covid but my learning has not been hindered. Once again the affordability is king for CCC if you look at The Hollywood Reporter best film school list CCC is a fraction of the cost compared to the other top film schools. I cant imagine you get a better education elsewhere and if you do it's not by a wide enough margin to make up the cost difference. Trying to find the right grad school is a near impossible task with the amount of options available, I am lucky I my place and if you attend I'm sure you'll feel the same.
Came in as both a transfer and commuter, so my experience was really lessened by that fact.
Your time and success here is really up to you. Students, in my experience, are given a good amount of independence to do whatever they want. This lets driven students excel, but on the flip side the ones that are less so are free to drag everyone else in the group down (and all film stuff is group work).
Most professors are eccentrics. That has its ups and downs when it comes to classroom learning; but at the very least they're all good and understanding people who want to see their students succeed.
I highly recommend dorming and it is super important you get to know your classmates (especially those in other Comm Media Majors like acting). Get involved with as many student productions as you can!
The required internship program at the end is okay too. Once again, you need to push and advocate for yourself to get into a good internship.
Don't take the back seat in your education here!
Anonymous is undecided about recommending this film school
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.
gaining experience (even if it's not under the best circumstances)
good post-production instruction
being around people who want to make film their vocation
ability to try different tracks
mediocre faculty who cannot teach, give helpful notes, or make good work
ineffective administration that doesn't like change
poorly designed first year curriculum
bad cinematography program
conservative, non-progressive school that lacks ability to hold people accountable, especially when it comes to social justice (too white)
does not set students up to succeed or help them make their best work - quality of work is generally, at best, mediocre
innovation is not encouraged, what matters more is reputation
little theoretical or intellectual sophistication in students or faculty (unless you are in the critical studies dept.)
I'm writing this review because there wasn't a lot of clear info when I was applying so I hope that this can offer some clarification beyond the fluff of USC marketing (like "the #1 film school in the world" bullshit).
The first year at USC is the worst one and is truly a mess. The film program accepts students based on their perspectives, meaning there is a wide range of skill level when it comes to film. Some people have had done a degree program before or have worked, while others do not know anything. This is not inherently a bad thing but what is dishonest about SCA is that they are not clear about the fact that the first year does not actually serve either groups of people. There is too little teaching that would give beginners a good foundation, but at the same time more experienced people are bored by how basic everything is. The approach of the first year is to have useless lectures during class, assigning students to trios, and having them figure out filmmaking themselves while learning how to "collaborate". What I have seen of even this attempt to teach people to collaborate is that they value students who don't make a fuss, meaning students will put on their best face to teachers so that they can have opportunities to direct higher level productions. They do not offer helpful support for students who struggle with things such as conflict resolution, mental health issues, cultural differences, or disability. I don't consider this good teaching or learning. Also, effective learning is seriously impaired by teachers who largely lack the basic skill of organizing classes and lecturing, in addition to not actually being that good at helping people with their films. If they were skilled enough to be successful most of them would not be teaching there.
After the first year, things get dramatically better because there is more choice in how people can work, who they work with, as well as what they take. This is when people start taking basic intermediate classes (directing, producing, etc.) which would have been far more useful to have learned in the first year before we had to make films. The faculty is improved from the first year but I have found that great professors are still hard to come by. There are certainly some here and there, though. The advanced production classes (esp 546/narrative and 547/doc) are well-regarded and I've generally heard good things about them. In general the coursework becomes more helpful since you can focus on one thing at a time and begin to consider how these will help you in your career. However, even then, I have found classes and instructions to be just okay.
USC is actually best for people who are already quite good at filmmaking and know what they are doing. In addition, this school is more helpful for people who want to be blockbuster directors and make films in a more standard way. However, artists who try to break the mold or make experimental work will not be as well supported, especially by the faculty who often don't understand that type of filmmaking. Stories told by POC exist in plenty but because most of the faculty is white those stories also do not get the best support that they should. When it comes to tracks, directing, cinematography, and PD are the weaker tracks here. Writing, producing, and post-production (editing and sound) are strong. The editing and sound facilities are definitely good and the faculty will train you from the beginning.
I can't say if USC is worth it or not really. I'd have to graduate to see if it is but I think it can be depending on what your goals are, what you want to do, and whether you can afford it. I have learned a lot from doing things in classes but I do wish that the education was structured better. The film program can certainly help you get a job (esp if you do a post-production track), gain familiarity with equipment, and learn technical skills but it won't help you become a better artist. However, I do think that coming to USC will open doors career wise because it is well-connected but so far it has come at the cost of dealing with all of the bullshit of the school. By the time people graduate the anger of going through the first year is gone but many are left with mixed feelings. You should know what to expect before you say yes.
As far as application details / materials are concerned, the following documents were part of submission:
- A Personal Statement
- Portfolio of a few works done till date
- A Photography Portfolio ( Optional)
- Link to a project that you have worked on, in any capacity (DoP / Director /...
London Film School - MA Filmmaking
Oct 15, 2020
Interview Notification Date
Nov 22, 2020
Nov 25, 2020
Decision Notification Date
Dec 15, 2020
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