Discover Studying Abroad
|
|

Film, TV and Digital Media Programs

Want to study Film, TV, or Digital media in the United States? We've put together a useful guide to what's top and what you can expect going into one of these programs.
BY Rajyasri Rao |   2012

A Brief Introduction

Film, television and digital media programs combine a theoretical and scholarly approach to the study of visual media with professional training in how to actually produce a piece of original work.

Undergraduates pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in film studies attend courses that are for the most part ‘theory heavy’ providing scholarly overviews of the various media, the industries involved, their history and recent trends while availing the opportunity to ‘taste’ the field by taking on internships with film companies or trying their hand at working for graduate student films. (Credit: Columbia University School of the Arts)

Schools that offer Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degrees introduce students to the craft of film making and include courses in animation, art direction, cinematography, directing, editing and sound, producing and screenwriting.

Coming through as a well educated, determined, imaginative and creative person can heavily tilt the scales in your favour.

Graduate programs dig deeper and make it possible for students to choose between Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees and the opportunity to enrol for research heavy PhD programs. The MA includes courses in cinema and media studies and is many ways an extension of ground already covered in undergrad studies while the MFA focuses on the actual craft of film/television/digital media ‘making’ whether in terms of production, directing or screenwriting.

Several top schools such as the Columbia University School of the Arts place the MA and MFA programs close together so that students have ready access to the experience of their counterparts across the MA/MFA divide and some schools even make it compulsory for students to dip in to both theory and practice in equal measure.

Schools offering PhD degrees provide students the opportunity to conduct in depth research in film and media studies often paving the way, among other professions, to academic careers.

Unsurprisingly, getting into the top schools is tough and expensive but the rewards just as sweet in terms of top class training, exposure, influential contacts and nearly always a push from oblivion to recognition.


What it Costs

Those pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in film studies attend courses that are for the most part ‘theory heavy’ - providing scholarly overviews of the various media, the industries involved, their history and recent trends - while availing the opportunity to ‘taste’ the field by taking on internships with film companies or trying their hand at working for graduate student films. (Credit: Columbia University School of the Arts)

The average tuition fee for a year at film school at any of the leading US universities is about USD 38,000 - 40,000.

Although the average tuition fee for a year at film school at any of the leading US universities is about USD 38,000 - 40,000, what you pay for can be a difference in emphasis on either a scholastic approach to the field, ‘hands on learning’, the presence of high profile faculty, top notch equipment and/or a not too obvious endowment by way of soaking up the hard to define ‘culture of film-making’.

Tuition costs per year for a graduate program tends to cost a tad less than that for a BA or BFA certificate but some Masters degrees such as an MFA in Cinematography or Directing can go on for up to four years as against just two years for the undergrad degree in Film (UCLA, TFT) making the comparable costs even out.


What it Pays

The average annual starting salary for a student who has completed a film production major is at the lower end at about USD 36,000. But the prospect of earning big bucks right after film school is not why those wanting to work in the film or related industries go to school in the first place.

As with most other creative pursuits, the question of whether attending school is of value can be answered equally honestly in two opposing ways: it is, if you realise that attending a recognised film program is one part of what it will take to start a solid career and it isn’t if you view it as the only or main factor in your employability.


Where is Best

Versions of the world’s top ten film and other media programs abound. A recent one compiled by The Hollywood Reporter is probably one of the most comprehensive as it takes into account various not-so-obvious factors such as a school’s commitment to imparting a sense of the ‘culture of film-making’, the unusual opportunity to complete a debut feature film while still a student, or the benefit of referring to some of the personal papers and film material of filmmakers such as Federico Felling in the school’s archives.


The top ten film schools in the world according to this list are:

  1. American Film Institute, Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies, US
  2. University of Southern California, US
  3. Beijing Film Academy, China
  4. New York University Tisch School of the Arts, US
  5. University of California Los Angeles US
  6. California Institute of the Arts, US
  7. Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Czech Republic
  8. Columbia University School of the Arts, US
  9. Wesleyan University, US
  10. National Film and Television School, UK


Which School Should You Choose?

Depending on your personal strengths, your proclivity for a certain art or discipline across the range offered at film school, and your preference for an exclusive or multidisciplinary approach, the list of top ranking film schools above or any other for that matter can be redrawn to better suit your individual interest.

Several top schools such as the Columbia University School of the Arts place the MA and MFA programs close together so that students have ready access to the experience of their counterparts across the MA/MFA divide.

If the prospect of a truly interdisciplinary experience appeals to you in addition to a deeply rooted commitment to global diversity both in student body representation as well as in the rare opportunity to conduct creative work and research practically anywhere on the globe then UCLA’s school of TFT is tailor-made for you. (Source: UCLA)

If you are pretty clear about what you want to do and already have a few years of work experience in the bag, then the exclusive and small sized American Film Institute is a better bet. Here, students get the opportunity to make a thesis film, are given access to the Screen Actors Guild for their casts and USD 13,500 in financing.

If the ‘safety in numbers’ adage carries weight for you then the assurance of being at a film school which has a reputation for having probably the largest number of its graduates in the industry would make USC come out on tops. In addition is what its dean calls the advantage of soaking in ‘the culture of film making’ – thanks to its state-of-the-art facilities, its strong ties to Hollywood and its emphasis on film history and technique.

A closer look at each of the leading film school’s offerings will give you a sense of which suits you best.

(Source: The Hollywood Reporter’s, The 25 Best Film Schools Rankings)


Your Program and Degree Choices

On the whole, there is a clear distinction between academic and profession oriented programs where Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master of Arts (MA) degrees focus on a theoretical emphasis while Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) focus more on the ‘creative and technical aspects of the moving image’. (Source: UCLA, School of Theater, Film and Television or TFT)

Depending on your own key strengths, you have a good shot at a variety of professions: as an editor, cinematographer, director, screenwriter, animator, producer, journalist, educator or executive.

However, some schools do offer the opportunity to graduate with a BA degree in something like film and television production which while providing a theoretical grounding to the history and evolution of film and television also include an equal emphasis on the aesthetics and craft of producing a piece of original work.

As an undergrad you can choose between a broad array of alternatives including a BA in Critical Studies, BA in Film & Television Production, BA in Animation & Digital Arts, BA in Interactive Entertainment and BFA in Writing for Screen & Television. (Source: University of Southern California, Cinematic Arts)

As a graduate student you can choose between a MA in Critical Studies, MFA in Film & Television Production, MFA in Animation & Digital Arts, MFA in Interactive Entertainment, MFA in Producing and MFA in Writing for Screen & Television. (Source: USC, Cinematic Arts)

Other schools offer a few more variants of the MA degree including in Moving Image Archive Studies (UCLA, TFT), Cinema and Media Studies (UCLA, TFT) but with the same unifying goal in mind: to provide a mainly scholarly overview to the field as distinct from the MFA degrees.

There are also PhD programs for those interested in analyzing the field by way of in-depth research.


What You Can Become

Depending on your own key strengths and the way that combines with the degree at hand, you have a good shot at a variety of professions: as an editor, cinematographer, director, screenwriter, animator, producer, journalist, educator or executive. (Source: UCLA, TFT)

One piece of advice often given to students of film and digital media is to not rest on the laurels of having a top-notch degree under your belt but to be prepared to ‘hustle’.

Although all top schools have their own unique points of view and strengths, students at such places always have the freedom to make their own way, honing their native strengths while taking on new, hitherto unknown ones. So it is possible for you to enter film school with the idea that you only or mainly want to study the field in a scholarly fashion but in dabbling with production find that the craft interests you more.

But no matter how high up your film school is in the rankings, one piece of advice often given to students of film and digital media is to not rest on the laurels of having a top-notch degree under your belt but to be prepared to ‘hustle’ to make and keep contacts within the industry, go after the company and position of your dreams and demonstrate your unique selling point in order to get a foot in the door of this highly competitive and ever changing industry.

And this applies of course more to those students keen to join the industry itself in some capacity than those more interested in studying or researching or teaching about it.


Timing the Degree

There are two schools of thought on when is an opportune time to join film school. The first proposes that given the value attached to youth in the film and digital media industries, wisdom lies in pursuing and completing a degree early on. The other proposes that no matter how much value is placed on youth there is an undoubted advantage in securing a high-quality, competitive degree from a film school of repute and that students gain from attending film school after having tried their hand at working in any of the related industries for a few years.

What distinguishes the application process to film school or film studies on the whole is the relatively greater weight given to talent, creativity and imagination.

As an instance, the film school that tops the list of the world’s best according to the Hollywood Reporter, the American Film Institute, is attended by students who are older than the average graduate student (about 27 years old) and usually obtain a place after having worked for at least a couple of years in the industry.

Most undergrad film school degrees don’t require prior work experience but do prefer to see applying students having verifiable proof of their interest and talent in the field whether by way of articles they may have written or activities they may have taken part in.

Graduate studies don’t require students to have pursued an undergrad in film studies or related subjects but work experience in the field can often be a plus point even though coming through as a well educated, determined, imaginative and creative person can heavily tilt the scales in your favour as much.


Admission Process

The basic criteria for eligibility as an international student obviously apply to all prospective students of film as well and this includes: evidence of English language proficiency, comparable and verifiable proof of high school grades and certificates when applying as a freshman and those of college education when applying for grad studies. Of equal value is being able to present proof of financial support to pay for your educational and living expenses especially at the undergrad level.

Broadly speaking, it is advisable to develop a plan to cover the cost of tuition, fees and living expenses for the entire length of your program and always keep a look out for scholarships exclusive to your school.

Some well endowed universities such as USC offer merit based scholarships for undergrad studies to international students in which case admissions runs concurrently with the financial aid process.

But this is quite rare.

What distinguishes the application process to film school or film studies on the whole is the relatively greater weight given to talent, creativity and imagination.

Various schools have slightly different ways of gauging this whether by means of a phone or in-person interview, the weight given to portfolios and the student’s personal statement.

Most schools keep the classroom size small which makes getting in tougher which in turn means that you need to really stand out as a promising individual, who is both gifted and driven.


Financial Aid

As a requirement of the I-20 application for a student visa, international students are obliged to demonstrate they have adequate funds to meet the costs of tuition, fees and living expenses.

On the whole, there is a clear distinction between academic and profession oriented programs where BA and MA degrees focus on a theoretical emphasis while BFA and MFA focus more on the ‘creative and technical aspects of the moving image’.

Because US citizens or permanent residents may be eligible for federal student aid, international students, who are ineligible, have a more limited opportunity for financial assistance at school.

International students are, however, often eligible for school-based scholarships and fellowships as and where they exist.

International students may also be eligible for loans through private lending sources, which usually require a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Broadly speaking, it is advisable to develop a plan to cover the cost of tuition, fees and living expenses for the entire length of your program and always keep a look out for scholarships exclusive to your school.

(Source for entire section on financial aid: Columbia University School of the Arts)

COMMENTS
Name:

Email:

captach
Can't Read  
Enter Above Code:

Comments:
Pearline Eliott
Hi, it's Pearline! Almost everyone is using voice search with their Siri/Google/Alexa to ask for services and products now, and next year, it'll be EVERYONE of your customers. Imagine what you are missing out on. Right now, I can only find braingainmag.com on text search after digging a few pages (that's BAD), competitors on top are winning all the traffic and business! Answer all your visitors' questions on your site and earn their business! Find out how easy it is : https://goo.gl/6h8hfW Get your voice search optimized content: https://goo.gl/tQh8J7 Starts at $20, regular SEO content starts at $10 Regards, Pearline
23 December 2018


Claude Pflaum
Hello! Great mouse content on the website! You know, websites get free traffic from their blog, and we feel that you could use a little help, since you are not blogging daily yet. Writing takes a lot of time, energy and effort, and we have just the team to come up with great writing you are looking for. You can have a brand new article to post on braingainmag.com starting at $10 in as little as 5 days! Check out our work and reviews from happy clients here: http://bit.ly/seowriters Thank you for your time, Cheers. Claude Questions? Send a message to our support site or check out the FAQ. You are receiving this email because the contact form at braingainmag.com is open to the public.
21 November 2018


Sign Up for our newsletter

Sign Up for latest updates and Newsletter

x