questions for UT Austin, Temple, and Columbia students/alums


In reading up on schools, I've singled out these 3 as especially appealing to me. But when it comes to descriptions and testimonials, I've found things are inevitably painted with a broad brush. So to get a better sense of what the programs are like, I wanted to ask two very specific sets of questions to anyone who's attending or has attended any of the above 3 programs...

1) Who are some specific filmmakers that your classmates and/or professors love? Which filmmakers get frequently brought up in conversation (inside or outside the classroom), and which filmmakers do you sense (or know) have influenced your classmates work? Who are your personal favorites and your own influences? And leaving aside the question of influences, if you had to group your films or your classmates' films alongside some other contemporary filmmakers with a similar style or approach, who would you choose? For all these questions, feel free to list as many names as you can think of!

2) This question is more geared toward UT and Temple, because I've heard that they emphasize history and theory, but I'd be curious to hear from Columbia people too: What specific theorists, historians, or writers on film have you been assigned to read in class? Any specific books or essays you remember having to read? And what was the response from the class? Also, were people familiar with any of that stuff prior to it being assigned?

Obviously I'm not expecting to find a school that only appreciates the directors and theorists I personally love, but knowing the answers to these questions I think would give me a much better picture of what the faculty and student body are like.

Thanks so much!


Well-Known Member
Hi TeN.

I went through the Film Production MFA program at UT, so I can talk about my experiences with that program.

1) In terms of specific influences, the interests and tastes of the students were incredibly diverse. There were many students interested in quiet neo-realism like Lynne Ramsay. Several students who were more into genre stuff like Brian DePalma. There were a few comedy people who were into a more Woody Allen-style aesthetic. I remember a few students specifically mentioning Pixar as influences.

Personally, my tastes are a little more mainstream than some of the others, and there were times when I felt the program was a little more forgiving of indie filmmakers and people wanting to make festival films than people like me who were a little more interested in Hollywood. But part of film school is about discovering your own style and tastes, and UT helped me do that.

Ultimately, you have final say over what kind of film you want to make. You take input from your cohort and you workshop the film, but you as the director have to be inspired to make the film you want to make. So if there's something you're interested in making, you can definitely do it at UT.

2) At UT, you're required to take one History of Film class. You're welcome to take other theory classes as electives, but I didn't. So I can only speak to the one class I took, which was a general history class that covered the beginning of film up through the 70's. It was interesting but very broad. If you're interested in a lot more theory, you might try talking to an MA student who could tell you more about that side of the department. In general, though, the MFA and MA students rarely mix academically.

I hope that helps. Feel free to follow up with more questions if you'd like.

Also, consider that the questions you should be asking yourself should be less about the interests of the other students in the program, and more about your needs. What do you need out of a program? Does UT provide the tools you need?


Thanks so much, brittak! Your response is tremendously helpful.

Like I said, I'm not expecting (nor would I want) to find a place where everyone shares my own tastes. But one of the things that I feel I need out of a program is a group of peers that has interesting, developed, and diverse interests and tastes that inform their own work and inform what they have to say about their fellow students' work. I think part of my concern comes from being a little burned by my undergrad film school experience, where most of my fellow students hadn't seen much and didn't watch many films on their own.

Anyway, your answer is re-assuring. Thanks again!

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