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.
They pick literally anyone, students who have no idea what filmmaking is (not talking about experience but at least passion and basic understanding of filmmaking)
Terrible taste (Hollywood trash, as I stated. They would all die for Marvel because- KeviN FeiGe iS aN AlUmNi)
Expensive (Tuition + living cost in LA for 3 years, plus production cost etc would likely cost you a literal kidney)
USC owns YOUR film that YOU pay on your own
Most students can't accept criticism and can't give criticism
They rely on sappy stories to make film, without actually having merit
Useless first year
Terrible equipment with low production value
Not actual industry network as they market, most of the time it's just B-list directors who happen to be friends with the faculty
Overall, this school is what 'quantity over quality' means.
The network they brag about is absolutely not as they market. The filmmakers who come mostly make low-rated films that happen to need a boost of marketing. Occasionally they are good, don't get me wrong, but it's just gonna be once every semester so I wouldn't call that good network.
I would give it 0 star but this website won't let me.
Oh and the SCA building is a horrific building, an insult to any architect in the world. At least $75 million endowment from alumni and organizations are distributed to the construction of this awful building instead of I don't know, scholarship? Emergency fund? Lower tuition?
If you don’t get a scholarship to attend USC I would advise against going. It’s too much money to throw away for a school with so many problems. The first year is remedial film. If you’ve ever taken film before, it’s useless. 6 units are devoted to critical studies, which at the time of writing is 12k. Do yourself a favor and save for a house.
The so called network only helps a certain few. The fact that you’re in college helps more, so I would choose a cheaper school.