USC School of Cinematic Arts Reviews & Admissions Statistics

4.00 star(s) 4 Stars (12 Reviews)
School Website
https://cinema.usc.edu/
Degrees Offered
  1. 4 Year BA
  2. 4 Year BS
  3. 4 Year BFA
  4. 2 Year MFA
Concentrations
  1. Film & Television Production
  2. Film Studies
  3. Producing
  4. Screenwriting
  5. Writing for Screen & Television
Tuition Range
$60k to $70k
Undergraduate Deadlines
December 1
Graduate Deadlines
November 15

Film School details

Nonprofit/For-Profit?
Nonprofit
Undergrad Student Body
876
Graduate Student Body
715
Copyrights
  1. Student owns all scripts written
  2. School owns copyright for cycle films & thesis films
Camera Equipment
  1. RED
  2. Sony Cinema Cameras
Software Used
  1. Adobe After Effects
  2. Avid Media Composer
  3. DaVinci Resolve
  4. Movie Magic Scheduling
  5. Pro Tools
  6. Maya 3-D
Filmmaking Facilities
  1. Sound Stage(s)
  2. Green Screen
  3. Sound Recording Studio
  4. ADR Foley Stage(s)
  5. Color Correction Suites
  6. Editing Bays
  7. IMAX
  8. Screening Rooms
  9. Sound Mixing Room(s)
  10. TV Studio
  11. Visual Effects Studios
Internships
  1. Student must arrange
  2. School provides resources to help find internships
Job Placement
  1. Student is on their own
  2. School Connects Students with Alumni
  3. School Provides Career Development Training
  4. School Operates Job Board
Number of Applicants
400 and they admit 32
Application Fee
$90
GRE Required?
  1. No
SAT or ACT Required?
  1. No
Portfolio Required?
  1. Yes
Minimum GPA
  1. None
Letters of Rec Required
  1. 2 (Undergrad)
  2. 2 (Graduate)
  3. 3 (Graduate)


For more than 90 years, the University of Southern California has trained the next generation of prolific filmmakers. As the nation's first institution of higher learning to offer a bachelor's degree in film, the School of Cinematic Arts remains at the forefront of emerging filmmaking trends. USC SCA is among Filmschool.org’s top 10 undergraduate film schools and runner-up for Best Directing Program. In 2023, The Hollywood Reporter moved USC SCA up to no. 2 on its annual list of the top 25 American film schools.

USC is notoriously one of the most competitive schools in the country. Faculty members are current working industry professions with extensive backgrounds and success in film and television. With an alumni list that reads more like a ‘who’s who’ list of Hollywood – Shonda Rhimes is an alumnus – USC offers an extensive network, exposing students to mentorship and internship opportunities as well as state-of-the-art facilities. To top it off, USC frequently brings in industry leaders for workshops and lectures and offers students exclusive screening opportunities.

Be sure to check out our interview with USC Admissions:

How to get Into USC SCA: Advice from an Admissions Committee Member

How to get Into USC SCA: Advice from an Admissions Committee Member

Considered by many to be the best film school in the world, it’s no wonder why the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) is so sought after by prospective undergraduate and graduate students alike. However, the film school’s prestige can often make the application process particularly stressful and...

How to Get Into USC SCA in 2024: More Tips for Applying from a Committee Member

How to Get Into USC SCA in 2024: More Tips for Applying from a Committee Member

As the oldest film school in the U.S., University of Southern California School of the Arts has taught more than ten thousand filmmakers how to create exceptional narrative films and documentary films. In 2023, TheWrap ranked USC SCA the #2 best film school in the country, praising its advanced...

As well as our guide to applying to USC:

USC SCA: How to Apply for 2024, Acceptance Rate, and What To Expect as an SCA Film Student

USC SCA: How to Apply for 2024, Acceptance Rate, and What To Expect as an SCA Film Student

For more than 90 years, the University of Southern California has trained the next generation of prolific filmmakers. As the nation's first institution of higher learning to offer a bachelor's degree in film, the School of Cinematic Arts remains at the forefront of emerging filmmaking trends...

Undergraduate Application Requirements

  • Creative Materials
  • Creative Portfolio List
  • Transcripts
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation
  • Writing Sample
  • Cinematic Arts Personal Statement
  • Video Introduction
  • Collaboration Question

Graduate Application Requirements

  • Cinematic Arts Personal Statement
  • Writing Sample
  • Creative Portfolio List
  • Collaboration Question
  • Video Introduction
  • Media Sample
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation (Stark/Media Studies)

Tuition Details


Helpful Links

Notable Alumni

  • George Lucas (Star Wars, American Graffiti, THX 1138)
  • Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon)
  • Judd Apatow (The 40 Year–Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Trainwreck)
  • John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape from New York, The Thing)
  • Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc.)
  • Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Flight, Back to the Future)
  • Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Swingers, Mr. and Mrs. Smith)
Do you manage this film school? Register on the site for free and claim the listing to answer questions, respond to reviews, update this listing and much more.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this page is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time it was last updated. PLEASE verify with the school ALL due dates and requirements as they may have changed since our last update. If any info on this page is incorrect please let us know and we will update it. We are not responsible for missed deadlines or rejected applications due to out of date information on this page. Please do your due diligence.

Latest Film School Reviews

I loved it.
Reviewed by: Alumni
Degree: BA/BS/BFA
Pros
  • Connections, Opportunities, Industry Events, Fun Classes, The esteem, campus
  • Opportunity
Cons
  • Elitism, Expensive, Nepotism, You must put the degree to work
I am a Black girl from the South. It was a big adjustment for me, but my total dream. The one takeaway I have from the school is you must make your mark. Everyone in the school is good at what they do and connected. So you must make yourself differeny. DON’T wait to do internships. Make friends everywhere!!! I loved my classes and professors. But put your best foot forward and the 4 years can be a vacation. Also, I am not rich. With Cal grants, I never had to pay tuition. Only housing (which is still a freaking lot) but the university wasn’t so bad financially for ME. Nevertheless it IS expensive so make your time there worth it.
Affordability
3.00 star(s)
Alumni Network
4.00 star(s)
Campus
5.00 star(s)
Career Assistance
4.00 star(s)
Coursework
5.00 star(s)
Facilities & Equipment
5.00 star(s)
Professors
4.00 star(s)
Scholarships
4.00 star(s)
Anonymous recommends this film school
Last edited by a moderator:
  • Like
Reactions: Chris W
A Journey Most Illuminating
Reviewed by: Alumni
Degree: BA/BS/BFA
Pros
  • Industry connections, job opportunities, professional training, abundance of sets, equipment, sound stages
Cons
  • 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.
Affordability
2.00 star(s)
Alumni Network
5.00 star(s)
Campus
5.00 star(s)
Career Assistance
4.00 star(s)
Coursework
4.00 star(s)
Facilities & Equipment
5.00 star(s)
Professors
4.00 star(s)
Scholarships
3.00 star(s)
JHD recommends this film school
3 members found this helpful.
Last edited by a moderator:
JasperJohns
JasperJohns
Thanks for sharing!
  • Like
Reactions: JHD
Great Marketing, Subpar Reality
Reviewed by: Current Student
Degree: MA/MFA
Concentration: Film and Television Production
Pros
  • gaining experience (even if it's not under the best circumstances)
  • good post-production instruction
  • SCA network
  • being around people who want to make film their vocation
  • ability to try different tracks
Cons
  • 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.)
  • expensive
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.
Affordability
1.00 star(s)
Alumni Network
4.00 star(s)
Campus
3.00 star(s)
Career Assistance
4.00 star(s)
Coursework
2.00 star(s)
Facilities & Equipment
3.00 star(s)
Professors
2.00 star(s)
Scholarships
3.00 star(s)
8 members found this helpful.
Last edited by a moderator:

Latest questions

I have a question for current or former students of the MFA program: I was told that students have to be selected to make a film in the second year of the MFA program, and that the thesis film is optional. What are you coming out of the Film Production (Directing) program with if you don't get selected to make your film, and if you don't make a thesis? What sort of opportunities do you have to create a body of work? How many opportunities do you have to make short films that are of such high quality, intentional, and deeply thought out (the way you would work on a thesis film for at least a year, for example) that they can potentially compete on the festival circuit?
Last edited:
scaldwellkerson
scaldwellkerson
Yeah it's really tricky, and has also changed (the requirements for projects as a directing track student) within the 2 years I've been here. So coming out of the program their hopes are that maybe you've found a different discipline that interests you other than directing, lol. It's not impossible to make a thesis honestly, as long as you have everything together for it. But yes, when we're talking about the possibility that you won't make a FILM per se, there is also the television track and they get a lot of money and there's opportunities to direct there.
In your first year, second semester you do make a 5 and a half minute film and that's the only only guaranteed film you get to make that's given the full filmmaking process but you're in a trio and have to help your other trio mates make their films as well.
scaldwellkerson
scaldwellkerson
DEFINITELY weigh out if USC is the right school for you because it's a great school for becoming a well rounded director, but they do not want you to think there's a directing program. They want you versed in multiple disciplines. You can also learn a lot about producing and writing within the program, I know other film schools don't have as good of writing programs if you're a directing student.
O
observer222
Super interesting - thank you so much for your detailed answers, I learned a lot here. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to attend an info session for USC during the application process in the fall so I haven't had a chance to learn more in depth about how their curriculum is set up - I just have been going off of the presumption that you know, USC is one of the top film schools in the country and I'll probably get a stellar education there. But you definitely shed some light on a lot of things for me and there's a lot to I have to think about (depending on if I even get in or not! haha). Thank you thank you!
I am curious about people's advice for selecting good recommenders. I got into screenwriting after college and don't have a great academic reference who could talk about me in a writing context that well. For people from non-traditional backgrounds, how did you choose your recommenders? Any advice? Thank you!
Moved my question to discussion thread.

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Film School information

Category
California
Added by
FilmSchool.org
Views
77,220
Watchers
52
Reviews
12
Questions
15
Last update
Rating
4.00 star(s) 12 ratings

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