University of Iowa- Master of Fine Arts in Film and Video Production Reviews & Admissions Statistics

3.00 star(s) 3 Stars (1 Reviews)
School Website
Degrees Offered
  1. 3 Year MFA
  1. Film & Television Production
Tuition Range
$10k to $20k

Film School details

Application Fee
With a focus on expanded documentary, experimental, hybrid, and narrative media forms, the Master of Fine Arts in Film and Video Production combines creative and scholarly coursework with the aim of producing a body of innovative, artistic work in film, digital media, multimedia installation, and/or animation.

Students are expected to demonstrate:
  • develop an artistic vision that will inform an emerging practice of film and video production; begin to develop a portfolio;
  • learn the advanced technical aspects of production from cinematography and editing to sound design;
  • acquire a broad range of knowledge in film and media theories and histories;
  • develop skills and experience in academic research and critical writing; and
  • professional development, including showing work at festivals, applying for grants and residencies, acquiring requisite skills for academic employment, and learning the skills for successful job applications.

Tuition Details

Iowa Residents: $11,665.5
Nonresidents: $30,612.50

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Latest Film School Reviews

Program going through a rough spell during my time, still good for some
Reviewed by: Alumni
Degree: MA/MFA
Concentration: Film and Video Production
The main thing to understand is who this program can serve. It is for artist-filmmakers, especially those who work more independently in experimental nonfiction or analytical veins, interested in challenging conventions of filmmaking. Having a strong practice of working this way before will help. The program will help you develop your work conceptually more than practically. You will also come out with strong teaching experience, and ⚡no debt⚡. Perfect for those who match this profile and want to think of grad school as a residency.

I don't think it was a good fit for me personally. I came in with a fair amount of industry experience and a newer personal practice, and I went to grad school hoping to explore my voice and different process-based approaches. I think I would have benefitted from more active mentorship and a more robust community. I felt a bit isolated and unsure how to make work in this environment and shaken by some aggressive critiques. You have to bring your own energy and really be prepared to work by yourself.

A few caveats about my experience. COVID-19 really affected the program in many ways. Sense of community was down, morale across the department was down (it's worth noting that Iowa has become an increasingly red state, and this is a state school directly affected by state politics), mental health issues were on the rise, and enrollment was down. The program had also recently lost a key faculty member to Milwaukee, and really the program was down to 2 faculty and 7 MFAs across 3 years. By the second year of my MFA, we were down to 4 MFAs (2 graduated, 1 left, no new admits in the year following mine). I left before finishing my second year.

Here are my critiques:
The head of the program (for my time) is an incredible artist, not an incredible educator. There's a lot of personality to manage here. Some people manage better than others, depending on your own resiliency. He's a complex person with some real brilliance and exciting moments of insight and clarity, but he's very uneven. You will know if he supports you or not. It was always apparent that he was unhappy in his role, and that affected his students.

One of the things that drew me to this program is that it was far more diverse than others. However, the program completely failed to support the students it accepted. Faculty seem excited by international students and students of less conventional backgrounds, but don't take into consideration the challenges these demographics will have navigating grad school, especially the labyrinthine bureaucracy of an enormous state school, or even the structure of a critique. I think every student in my cohort felt confused about why we were accepted, we felt such a lack of interest and support once admitted.

I was attracted to the fact that Iowa has a more academic component—but you should consider what this means fully. Two film studies courses (which will require 10+ page papers), a comprehensive exam (a whole rigamarole with another 10-page paper) in your second year, and then a thesis paper to accompany your thesis work in your final year. I loved my film studies courses, but consider whether you want this degree of academics. These courses are also often challenging for international students in their first fully US context. I didn't get a lot of advising about the comprehensive exam process—for example, it would have helped to start collecting references in the first year. If you come from a more academic background this may be more obvious, but none of us really knew what a comprehensive exam even was—and it still doesn't make sense to me that this is what is required for thesis clearance, and no review of your film/creative work.

The program requires a certain number of film production courses, but for my time, these offerings were meager. The courses are primarily for undergraduates, with no different criteria or expectations for graduate students. This is especially weird when, as I said, I think the program best serves students with a degree of experience. Screenwriting classes will not count. Photo classes (which you may want to take for darkroom access since the department does not have its own) will not count, even though they will have a larger number of graduate students than your required film production classes. The cinematic arts department is very separate from the art school—even geographically separated by a river—which is a missed opportunity.

The program (or the graduate college?) is obsessed with your income. You are really not allowed to work outside of your fellowship/TA-ship, and the program will NOT turn a blind eye. Many of us found this to be a hardship, since this is real working experience we are not allowed to take. I will also say not paying for grad school is great, I wouldn't do it another way, but you are working for your pay, and you are not paid enough. MFAs are paid less than film studies students, and the wages are just above poverty levels. Iowa City is more expensive than you would think.

Here are some positives:
I made the most incredible community OUTSIDE of the program. This will probably be true for any small program, but I didn't realize how cool this would be. There is a beautiful group of artists drawn to Iowa, I met some of the most amazing people here, and got to collaborate with them in ways I never would have predicted. (Unfortunately, much of this work was "extra" to my requirements.)

Because it is a small community of filmmakers, there can be many more opportunities for those interested in working with other artists. PS One, a community arts space, is incredible.

All of the faculty are incredible filmmakers that I admire deeply. If you are independently proactive, you can get some decent face time with them.

The Writers Workshop, the most prestigious writing MFA in the country, is its own separate heaven, but you CAN take seminar classes, and these will count as electives. You might take these because there are brilliant writers and teachers leading them and you have the pleasure of enjoying them, and you might take them because they have absolutely zero requirements. One of the reasons I decided to go to Iowa was for this opportunity. It's another thing you will have to figure out how to navigate on your own, but I'd seriously recommend it.

There are Bolexes and Steenbecks and an Oxberry and a shitty Telecine and a couple of OK film studios and if you are the kind to figure things out for yourself, you can use these as much as you want, hardly anyone else is.

I understand that people in years prior to mine (or the two above me) had a better experience—I think the lost faculty made a big difference, but also just the particular make-up of the student body then. Some really great artists have come out of Iowa. My takeaway is the program matters less than the people (faculty and students). Research who is currently at the program. Ask current students to connect you with recent alumni who may give you a more honest picture. Realize that current MFAs of any program are partially trying to recruit people they think will improve their own experience.
I really hope the program turns around. They hired a new faculty who shows a great deal more interest in students. The last few years seem a little traumatic for the program, and I hope they reckon with it. Ultimately, I think my situation is just one of bad timing, but I couldn't stick it out.
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