MFA Courses of Study
Course of Study: MFA in Screenwriting/Directing
The first-year courses include workshops in producing, directing, screenwriting, and directing the actor, reflecting the faculty's belief that the best training for screenwriters, directors, and producers must include experience of and knowledge in all of these essential disciplines. These workshop classes are anchored by lectures covering the fundamental principles of directing, screenwriting, and producing.
Workshop classes are comprised of not more than 12 students and the emphasis is on hands-on, process-oriented creative work.
In the first semester, each student works on short scripts in screenwriting, and directs a 3–5-minute film in a directing class.
The culminating project of the first year is the creation of an 8–12-minute film. Each student directs a film, from his or her own screenplay or one written by another student in the program. Several courses in the first-year curriculum help to generate and prepare these scripts for filming in the summer of the first year. Additionally, every student must act as producer on a film other than the one he or she directs. The films are shot over the summer after the first year, and a critique of all the finished films begins the second year of study.
Students will also complete their first feature-length screenplay during the first year of study.
As the second year begins, students in the Screenwriting/Directing concentration continue their course of study in these disciplines. Both second-year directing courses, Directing 3 and Directing 4, culminate in the creation of short films, adding to the portfolio with which the student eventually leaves the School.
The principal second-year screenwriting sequence, Screenwriting 3 and Screenwriting 4, requires the student to structure and write a feature-length screenplay, working with the same instructor and the same classmates for both semesters.
Also in the second year, students interested in television writing may take an introductory television writing class in the fall semester, and television writing workshops in both the fall and spring terms.
Electives for the second year may include writing, directing, producing, and cinematography courses, courses in other programs at the School of the Arts, or throughout the University.
Every MFA student must take one course in Film History/Theory/Criticism (HTC) during the first two years of study. Students planning to apply for teaching assistantships should take two HTC courses.
Students are asked to confirm their plans for thesis work by mid-year of the second year. In the spring semester of the second year, students will be assigned an advisors from their chosen concentration and area of specialization, and that advisor will supervise all thesis work.
The required 60 credits of coursework must be completed in the first two years, after which the thesis period—lasting from one-to-three years, at the student and advisor’s discretion—begins.
All Screenwriting concentrates take Script Revision in their third year of study, and TV Revision is also offered for students doing television writing thesis work.
Screenwriting also offers elective courses such as Advanced Feature Writing and Advanced Pilot Writing, which are open to all students in the concentration.
Thesis work for Screenwriting concentrates can be an original screenplay, or a television writing or new media thesis package of at least 90 minutes of original pilots of new media writing.
In addition to the thesis script(s) Screenwriting concentrates submit one of the following as part of their thesis work:
- A revised and polished second feature screenplay (with or without a short film)
- 90 minutes of revised and polished television or new media writing (with or without a short film)
- A short film, PLUS sixty (60) minutes of revised and polished television or new media writing
For Directing concentrates, thesis work can include up to two completed short films directed by the student.
During the thesis period from the third year onwards, students are no longer taking courses for credit, but they meet regularly with their advisors for intense developmental work on their thesis ideas, take thesis preparation classes, and may take master classes with guest filmmakers. Topics regularly offered in master classes include television directing, directing the first feature, comedy workshops, pitching seminars, advanced editing, and film scoring. Shorter master classes are regularly offered by a range of internationally recognized screenwriters, television writers, directors, and producers.
Course of Study: MFA in Creative Producing
The first-year courses include workshops in producing, directing, screenwriting, and directing the actor. Studio classes are comprised of a maximum of 12 students and the emphasis is on hands-on, process-oriented creative work.
The first semester culminates in a 3–5-minute film which each student writes and directs.
The culminating project of the first year is an 8–12-minute film. Each student directs a film from their own screenplay or one written by another student in their class. Additionally, every student must act as producer on a film other than the one he or she directs. Several courses in the first-year curriculum help to generate and prepare these scripts for filming in the summer of the first year.
A critique of all the finished films begins the second year of study. In the second-year curriculum, students immerse themselves in courses whose primary focus is the producing of feature films, with the concurrent study of television and new media. They may also take courses in screenwriting and television writing, sample courses open to cross-registration at the Columbia Business School, courses in other programs of the School of the Arts and throughout the University as electives. Every student must take at least one course in film history/theory/criticism (HTC) prior to graduation.
The required 60 credits of coursework must be completed in the first two years. In the third or thesis year, students must work on the production of at least three films, one of which is their thesis. Each student is required to be the sole producer of his or her thesis film. Students are also required to complete an internship working for a production or distribution company.
Students in the thesis period are no longer taking courses for credit, but they meet regularly with their advisors for intense developmental work on their thesis ideas, take thesis preparation classes, and may take elective master classes with guest filmmakers. Topics regularly offered in master classes include contract law for producers, advanced post-production for producers, feature budgeting, and scheduling. Shorter master classes are offered by a range of internationally recognized filmmakers.
Students leave the School with a portfolio of produced films, and in many cases a feature film project they have developed that is ready to be produced. Our graduates are highly employable, and enjoy a reputation as the most versatile and cutting edge of the current crop of young producers, cementing our reputation as one of the most comprehensive producing programs of any film school in the world.