Screenwriting/Directing MFA Curriculum

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
Directing Actors I
Fundamentals of Directing
Elements of Dramatic Narrative
Ethics & Inclusive Storytelling
Practical Production I
Screenwriting I

First Year Core Curriculum—Spring

Directing II
Directing Actors II
Practical Production II
Role of the Producer
Screenwriting II
Script to Screen
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.

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

Second Year Elective Classes

Business of Television
Digital Storytelling I: History and Theory of Interactivity
Digital Storytelling II: Building Storyworlds
Intro to Cinematography
First Features
Story Structure
TV Directing
TV Writing: The Series
TV Writing: Pilot
Visual Experiences

Second Year Core Curriculum—Summer

D4 film production – a more ambitious short film, directed by a member of the Directing 4 class

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.

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

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