MA Film and Media Studies Courses

Program Requirements

Columbia University MA in Film and Media Studies

Two Tracks: Cinema/Media or Emergent Media

M.A. in Cinema/Media 4 required courses:

  1. FILM AF5700: Cinema/Media History
  2. FILM AF5710: Pro-Seminar in Film Theory
  3. FILM AF8900: Thesis Prep Seminar
  4. FILM AF9700: Graduate Thesis Research

M.A. in Emergent Media 4 required courses:

  1. FILM GU4951New Media Art
  2. FILM AF5720Media Archaeology
  3. FILM AF8900: Thesis Prep Seminar
  4. FILM AF9700: Graduate Thesis Research

See below for descriptions of required MA courses:


Students take 30 credits of coursework over any 3 semesters (full-time) or 5 semesters (part-time). See below for Residency requirements.

Master’s Thesis: In the third semester, students complete a 50 to 60-page written work of original scholarship on a topic chosen in consultation with the faculty.

Eligibility: The Master's Degree in Film Studies is designed for students who have already completed significant undergraduate or graduate work in the study of film or associated fields. Note: Students in the MA Program in Film Studies are not eligible to enroll in MFA directing, screenwriting or film production classes.

Residency: All Master’s Degree in Film and Media Studies candidates who have completed 30 credits of coursework and have not completed the degree requirements may register for one additional semester of MA Extended Residence. Students must complete all course and degree requirements in no more than one school year + one semester (full-time) or two school years + one semester (part-time). Any extensions to these deadlines (a) must be approved in advance by the Program Director and (b) may carry additional fees. For more specific information, contact the School of the Arts Admissions Office at [email protected]



FILM AF5700: CINEMA/MEDIA HISTORY: (3 credits; Prof. Gaines) An introduction to issues and cases in the study of cinema century technologies, from old to new media. Students work to define a historiographic problem and learn the differences between theoretical and empirical solutions. Specific units on the history of film style, genre as opposed to authorship, silent and sound cinemas, national cinemas (Russia, China, India), the political economy of world cinema, and archival approaches to the transition between the photochemical and the digital. 

FILM AF5710: PRO- SEMINAR IN FILM THEORY (3 credits; Prof. Baumbach) Begins with a general overview of current developments in film theory, discussing issues, related to cultural studies, the emergence of new media, Asian film theory, and new formulations of film spectatorship. The course then proceeds to a close examination of one or two case studies in contemporary theory, with frequent in-class presentations of material by the students themselves.


GU4951: NEW MEDIA ART (3 credits; Profs. Rob King and Lance Weiler)

New Media Art is a “key concepts” course that locates a range of new paradigms for immersive art and storytelling in relation to key debates in the field. The course provides a survey of emergent media/technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, VR/AR, the Internet of Things, and many others. These are used as springboards for introducing students to foundational concepts in the study and theory of new media, such as transmedia storytelling, affordances, interfaces, database aesthetics, and immersion.

AF5720: MEDIA ARCHAEOLOGY (3 credits; instructor TBD)

Builds on concepts introduced in New Media Art to explore the variety of disciplinary perspectives that have shaped theories of media change. Of central concern is the subfield of “media archaeology” as a specific style of media-theoretical thinking that emphasizes close readings of technologies themselves. Students taking this class will be exposed to the writings of prominent media thinkers (Ernst, Kittler, Parikka, and others) whose work focuses less on the cultural history of technology than on material ontologies and their implications for rethinking technological history. Students research past technologies and present innovations from a media archaeological perspective.

NOTE: Whichever track you take, you may also choose required courses from the other stream if there is sufficient room. These will then count as electives toward your degree.


The final Fall semester of study for MA in Film and Media Studies students is dedicated to researching and writing the Master’s Thesis on a topic approved by faculty. Students do not enroll for additional classes during this final term as they are expected to work full-time on their thesis and register for 2 courses:

AF8900: THESIS PREP SEMINAR (3 credits; Fall semester of 2nd year; Profs. Jane Gaines and Ron Gregg) Students workshop their thesis-in-progress and receive comments on drafts.

AF9700: GRADUATE THESIS RESEARCH (3 credits; Fall semester of 2nd year; Profs. Jane Gaines and Ron Gregg) Students register for this course to receive academic credit for the completed thesis.


Students can take elective courses either from within the School of the Arts or in other Columbia University Arts and Sciences departments. A list of suggested elective courses will be distributed each semester.

Electives for the Cinema/Media track might include:

School of the Arts: Cinephilia, Seeing Narrative, World Film Melodrama, Sound and Image Theory, The Documentary Tradition, The Moving Image and the Museum, Cinema History I: Beginnings to 1930,  The Mind Game Film, Queer Film Theory, Cuban Cinema, Film Comedy, Genre Study: The Blockbuster, Topics in American Cinema: The Western, Cult Film

Arts & Sciences: Indian Cinema, Italian Neorealism, Chinese Documentary, Contemporary Japanese Cinema, Iranian Cinema, Critical Approaches to African-American Studies, Advanced Topics in Women and Gender Studies, Weimar Cinema

Electives for the Emergent Media track might include:

School of the Arts:  Digital Storytelling I: Rhetorics of Interactivity, Digital Storytelling II: Building Storyworlds, Visual Bodies: From Cinema to New Media, Experimental Film and Media, Seriality, Documentary Activism: Theory and Practice, Film and Philosophy

Arts & Sciences: Technologies of Dissent, The Mediated Body and the City, Beyond the Human, Free Culture and Open Access, Hacking the Archive, Chinese Internet Culture