First Year

The first year of the MFA Film Program at Columbia is devoted to the Core Curriculum – an integrated group of classes in which all MFA students learn the fundamental components of Directing, Screenwriting and Producing.


First Year Core Curriculum—Fall


Directing I

Screenwriting I

Directing Actors I

Fundamentals of Directing

Elements of Dramatic Narrative

Practical Production I


First Year Core Curriculum—Spring


Directing II

Screenwriting II

Directing Actors II

Script to Screen

Role of the Producer

Practical Production II

Analysis of Film Language (recommended)


First Year Core Curriculum—Summer


8-12 minute film production


History-Theory-Criticism (HTC) Requirement


All MFA students must take at least one course in Film Studies (generally referred to within the School as “HTC,” an abbreviation for History-Theory-Criticism) within the 60 credits required for the degree. Students  planning to apply for teaching assistant positions should take more than one HTC course.


A representative list of HTC courses includes but is not limited to the following. The asterisked courses are specifically recommended for MFA students but any of these courses fulfills the HTC requirement.


Analysis of Film Language**

Cinema History 1: beginnings to 1930

Cinema History 2: 1930 - 60

Cinema History 3: 1960 - 90

Cinema History 4: after 1990

Cinephilia: Theory and Practice of the Moving Image

Documentary Tradition

Film and Media Theory

The Moving Image in the Museum

Seeing Narrative

Sound and Image Theory

Topics in American Film (Horror, Comedy, Cult, Western, etc)

Topics in World Cinema (Latin America, China, Arab and African)**



Towards the end of the second year, MFA Screenwriting/Directing students declare their intended concentration.


In the Second Year of the MFA Program, Creative Producers and students in the Screenwriting and Directing concentrations take required courses and supplement these courses with a wide range of electives.

Second Year

Screenwriting—Second Year Courses


Screenwriting III

Screenwriting IV

Fundamentals of Editing


Note: Screenwriting III/IV is a year-long course taught by the same instructor.

Screenwriting concentrates also have priority for the following courses, which are required for those who plan to do television writing for their thesis.


TV Writing: The Series

TV Writing: Pilot


Screenwriters may take Second Year Courses in Directing and Directing Actors, and some Producing courses as electives.


Directors—Second Year Courses


Directing III

Directing IV

Directing Actors III or IV

Fundamentals of Editing


Directors may take Second Year Courses in Screenwriting and/or  TV Writing and some courses in Producing as electives


Creative Producers—Second Year Required Courses


Business of Film

Feature Film Development

Feature Film Financing

Pre-Production of a Motion Picture

Writing and Script Analysis for Producers


Producers may also take Second Year Courses in Screenwriting and/or TV Writing as electives


Second Year Elective Classes


Business of Film

Business of Television

Digital Storytelling I: History and Theory of Interactivity

Digital Storytelling II: Building Storyworlds

Intro to Cinematography

Documentary Producing

First Features

Fundamentals of Editing

Story Structure for Writers and Directors

TV Directing

TV Writing: The Series

TV Writing: Pilot


After completion of concentration requirements and 60 credits in the first two years of study, the third year and beyond is devoted to thesis work and to special classes contributing to the completion of the thesis. There are also several advanced non-credit workshops that are open exclusively to students in their thesis years.

Third Year and Beyond

Screenwriting—Third Year Required Classes


Script Revision – (required of all Screenwriting concentrates in the 3rd year))

TV Revision – (Required of all Screenwriting concentrates who wish to do thesis work in TV Writing)


Directors—Third Year Required Classes


Directing Thesis  Advisement


Creative Producing


Producing Thesis Advisement


Screenwriting Electives for thesis students

(These courses are open to Directing and Producing concentrates, although priority goes to Screenwriting concentrates.)

Advanced Feature Writing

Advanced Pilot Writing

Advanced Screenplay Revision

Pitch Seminar

Script Revision

TV Revision