Screenwriting & Directing MFA Curriculum

The first year of the Film MFA 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
Elements of Dramatic Narrative
Ethics & Inclusive Storytelling
Fundamentals of Directing
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
Secrets of the Short
Analysis of Film Language (recommended)

First Year Core Curriculum—Summer

8-12 minute film production

Film & Media Studies (FMS) Requirement

All MFA students must take at least one course in Film & Media Studies (generally referred to within the School as “FMS”) within the 60 credits required for the degree. Students  planning to apply for teaching assistant positions should take more than one FMS course.

A representative list of FMS 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 FMS requirement.

Analysis of Film Language**
Black Film & Media
Blockbuster Cinema
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
Cult Cinema
Documentary Tradition
Film and Media Theory
Film Comedy
Media Archaeology
The Mind Game Film
The Moving Image in the Museum
New Media Art
Queer Film Theory
Reality Television
Seeing Narrative
Sound and Image Theory
The Western
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, students in the Screenwriting & Directing concentration 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 TV Writing: Pilot, which is required for those who plan to do television writing for their thesis.

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

Directing—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 Producing courses 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 Gym
Story Structure
TV Directing
TV Writing: Pilot
Visual Experiences

Second Year Core Curriculum—Summer

Second Year 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 third 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 concentrates, although priority goes to Screenwriting concentrates.)

Advanced Feature Writing
Advanced Pilot Writing
Advanced Screenplay Revision