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MFAFilm

Pursue your artistic voice while pushing the limits of your filmmaking practice.

Overview

Explore the full range of film practices

The MFA Film program prepares students to create and thrive in a rapidly changing cinema landscape, drawing inspiration from the Bay Area, home to groundbreaking film archives, production studios, and national museums.

Collaborative and interdisciplinary at our core, we encourage graduate students to work with the many film centers and nonprofit organizations in our community, including The San Francisco Film Society and San Francisco Cinematheque.

Hands-on experiences—and faculty mentors—will challenge you to sharpen your artistic voice, refine your ideas, and expand your understanding of the moving image. A master’s in film studies is a unique opportunity to explore the themes and topics you care about most from the perspectives of artist, craftsperson, and entrepreneur.

Studios + Shops

Your canvas for cinematic creativity

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Named one of the best film schools in the U.S. by MovieMaker Magazine, we facilitate a wide range of filmmaking modes and production methods, from guerrilla-style, experimental, and improvisational techniques to more formal fiction and nonfiction models. Our extensive film studios and labs include editing, sound, and color correction suites, all available 24/7. You’ll have access to specialized audio and visual equipment and, most importantly, collaboration-hungry peers who not only serve as sounding boards for your concepts, but also as crew members for your films.

You’ll be inspired by the world-class directors, such as Gus Van Sant, Laura Poitras, and Werner Herzog, who attend our masterclasses and intimate critiques as a part of our annual Cinema Visionaries lecture series.

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In addition to your work in the studio, history and theory courses, taught by experts in both filmmaking and critical studies, will push you to experiment with contemporary cinema and visual arts. Electives round out your experience by giving you the opportunity to try your hand at painting, photography, writing, and more. By the time you present your public thesis screening, you’ll have compelling work that may be informed by multiple disciplines.

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Teaching assistantships and internships

Graduate students may also gain practical experience as teaching assistants for undergraduate courses, including Narrative Strategies, Film 1, and Film 2. They receive teaching mentorship from faculty and have the chance to tailor their own pedagogical models. Students have also interned with Frameline, producers of the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival; San Francisco Film Society, which organizes the San Francisco International Film Festival; and SoMArts, a cultural center for multidisciplinary events and exhibitions.

Film studios, equipment, and editing suites

Faculty

Learn filmmaking from award-winning artists

Our faculty are working filmmakers and media artists with backgrounds in various practices, including directing, cinematography, sound design, and installation. Faculty work with graduate students one on one to expand their conceptual thinking and aesthetic approaches to film. Each year, they take students to Sundance Film Festival to give students access and exposure to one of the most important events within the professional film world.

Rob Epstein, Co-chair of Film

Rob Epstein, Co-chair of Film

Co-chair Rob Epstein is a director, writer, and producer who has won two Academy Awards for the documentary films The Times of Harvey Milk and Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. He also leads a film production company, Telling Pictures, which has won praise for the indie biopics Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) and Howl (James Franco) at various film festivals.

Brook Hinton, Co-chair of Film

Brook Hinton, Co-chair of Film

Co-chair Brook Hinton has worked extensively in the film industry as an editor, colorist, and sound designer. His projects range from narrative cinema to experimental multimedia performance including Trace Garden, a found-footage séance series made up of re-edited and re-processed 16mm and Super 8 home movies.

Curriculum

Experience a range of perspectives

The MFA Film curriculum covers the full spectrum of filmmaking. Courses in history, theory, and the diversity of professional practices and alternative practices complement the work we do in studios and labs. You’re encouraged to choose electives from other disciplines, such as writing and curatorial practice, to expand your skill sets and push the boundaries of your craft.

MFA Film

Year 1: Fall Semester

Film Studio 1
3 units
Writing for the Moving Image
3 units
Film Production 1
3 units
Film Language and Form
3 units
Nonfiction Studio
3 units

Year 1: Spring Semester

Film Studio 2
3 units
Directing Studio
3 units
Production 2
3 units
Film History
3 units
Studio Elective
3 units

Year 2: Fall Semester

Thesis Development Seminar 1
3 units
Film Studio 3
3 units
Film Aesthetics and Theory
3 units
Studio Elective
3 units
Studio Units
3 units

Year 2: Spring Semester

Thesis Project Seminar
3 units
Graduate Film Studio 4
3 units
Outside the Box: Advanced Exhibition and Distribution Strategies
3 units
Studio Elective
3 units
Studio Units
3 units

Total 60 units

Careers

Developing a thriving practice

Our alumni have the networks, conceptual skills, and technical dexterity to pursue lifelong careers in filmmaking. They draw from interdisciplinary collaborations with curators and visual artists as well as their teaching experiences at CCA. From commercial projects to non-traditional media, they relentlessly challenge themselves to redefine 21st century cinema.

Potential career paths

  • Cinematographer
  • Filmmaker/Director
  • Screenwriter
  • Film editor
  • Writer/Critic
  • Educator
  • Curator
  • Visual artist

News + Events

What’s happening for MFA Film students?

How to Apply

Submit sample reels that tell your story

Our two-year program is designated for those with a bachelor’s degree in film, visual studies, or a related fine arts field. Most of our applicants are self-driven filmmakers who are excited to join a collaborative community. Overall, placement is based on the strength of your portfolio and transcripts. After you submit all materials, you’ll be contacted for an online or on-campus interview with the graduate program manager or a faculty member.

Application fundamentals

You’ll need to submit three components that are common to all CCA graduate applications:

  • Resume/curriculum vitae
  • Two recommendation letters
  • Unofficial college transcripts

Additionally, you’ll submit a portfolio and personal essay that are tailored to your specific master’s program.

MFA Film portfolio requirements

Sample reels

All applicants must submit a five-minute sample reel, which should be clearly labeled with the title, date, running time, a brief description of the subject(s), and your exact role in its production. You may submit supplemental reels of up to 10 minutes in length, but our review committee may not have time to watch all of them.

Additional video files

You may submit additional video files via SlideRoom by including their URLs for online viewing (60 MB maximum per file). Videos hosted on YouTube, Vimeo, or download links compatible with QuickTime are acceptable. We encourage you to submit at least one recently completed project.

Work in other mediums

You may also submit up to 10 still images, links to web-based work, and samples of written work, such as short stories or essays.

Equipment requirements

Laptop software

You’ll need a laptop capable of running the latest versions of all Adobe Creative Suite or Creative Cloud software and at least two external hard drives—one for media (7200 RPM or SSD recommended) and another with sufficient space for backing up both the media and system drive.

While Windows-based systems can provide superior performance in some cases, we strongly recommend Apple laptops because they’re compatible with all the auxiliary equipment CCA provides.

Laptop configurations

  • Minimum of 16 GB RAM
  • Hard drive that’s 1 TB or larger, 7200 RPM, or SSD
  • Intel Core i5 or i7 processor
  • Screen resolution of at least 1920 x 1080
  • Thunderbolt 2 or 3 and USB 3.1 ports or higher (USB-C recommended)
  • Laptop that can connect SDHC and SDXC cards directly or through an external USB card reader
  • Matte/non-glare screen surface recommended

Camera and lens minimum specifications

We have plenty of cameras and lenses available for check-out through our Film Cage and Media Center. If you would like to buy/bring your own, please make sure they meet our minimum specifications:

  • Manual control of aperture/exposure, shutter speed, focus, and white balance
  • Ability to shoot 23.976 fps (24pc) at 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • Media recording capability for SDHC or SDXC cards or external drives
  • DSLR-style (preferred)

Contact our program manager with questions

Eric Millman

Program Manager for Fine Arts

+1 415-551-9214

[email protected]

Join a studio culture focused on innovation

Apply now