The 10 Best Film Schools In The United States in 2017

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What is it that makes one film school superior to another? The process of creating a film, regardless of whether it is art, cinema, documentary or an event, or regardless of where it is filmed – Wyoming, Wisconsin, West Virginia – requires knowledge in a variety of areas. Camera operators must understand the theory behind film, the technology necessary to capture events on film and the knowledge to produce a meaningful series of images which convey the intended meaning behind the film. A good film school will teach students the skills and knowledge necessary to perform the functions required to accomplish this. An excellent film school will produce graduates who have developed an inherent understanding of what must be done, the creativity to produce unique projects and the ability to successfully implement their ideas. Developing a curriculum which matures each student’s natural abilities and cultivates an advanced understanding of what makes great film is essential to significant success in the commercial or private film industry.

Camera operators will need to understand the foundational premises of a number of subject matters. Attaining an understanding of the areas of journalism, communications, marketing, graphic design, computers and photography are all valuable. Each field provides knowledge essential to the production of meaningful films. Students may need to develop a more in depth understanding of certain areas based on the type of film in which they intend to work. Certain schools may provide a general overview of the field but may concentrate more in one area than another. Schools which offer strong degree programs in film will provide sufficient training in each area to ensure graduates are equipped with a comprehensive understanding of the entire industry, not just small segments which barely cover the vital areas. By encompassing all of the subjects relevant to the film industry as a whole, students will be given the opportunity to explore the various areas of focus and make an informed decision as to where their strengths lie and which specialty is most relevant to their abilities.

With the high level of competition expected for individuals vying for positions in the film industry, choosing the right school will be important. Graduates entering the film industry will need to rely substantially on the reputation of the school where the degree is earned to provide an advantage over other applicants applying for the same position. A limited number of entry level positions are expected to be available over the next several years. Competition for the available positions will be fierce. With limited practical experience, the quality of the education received by a candidate will be the factor employers will consider most when making a decision. Selecting a school ranked among the top in the nation will provide the advantage needed.

10. University of California – Los Angeles

The University of at Los Angeles has long been regarded as one of the premier institutions of higher learning in the nation. The School of Theater, Film and Television within UCLA maintains that reputation continuing with the tradition through rigorous and dynamic degree programs, award winning faculty members and advisors and extensive resources and network connections. The curriculum concentrates on the traditional areas of theory, practice and criticism; with a strong emphasis on experiential learning, analytical thinking and creative development. UCLA prepares the future leaders of the industry by encouraging innovation and risk taking. Students enrolled at UCLA have access the school’s renowned film and television archive; the largest of its type in the world. UCLA hosts workshops credited with developing exceptional skills in various areas of the field of cinema. UCLA also offers summer programs for high school students, college students and professionals. The online film program offers the opportunity to complete courses at the convenience of the student.

The University of California at Los Angeles offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the field. Students intending to enroll in the Bachelor of Arts in Film and Television will only be able to do so in the last two years of their undergraduate program. The first two years of the program will be dedicated to general educational studies. Coursework include foundational arts and humanities, society and culture, scientific inquiry, writing, foreign language, literature, American history and institutions. The curriculum provides a comprehensive overview of the field. Students learn all of the relevant areas of the field; the conceptual areas of history and theory as well as the technical and creative aspects. Storytelling is a main focus of the field as it is considered the central element of film. Additional areas meant to expound the students abilities and understanding include special effects for film and television, digital library research and archival restoration, computer animation, interactive television and web based media arts.

9. Yale University

Yale University is ranked among the top universities in the nation and has earned international recognition for the superior quality of its degree programs. The Film Studies programs offered at Yale University are no exception. Film studies are considered as an artistic expression with significant cultural and social import. The programs concentrate on the history, theory and criticism of film. Both undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered in film studies. Students are offered the opportunity to create films or videos as part of the curriculum and possibly gain admission to either the fiction or documentary film workshops. Students are encouraged to develop a collaborative relationship with other departments; utilizing resources which are relevant to film studies and completing course within the department which will complement the area of interest which they want to pursue. The lecture series offered at Yale University in Film Studies provides opportunities to hear renowned experts discuss various aspects of the film industry.

The interdisciplinary degree programs in film studies encompass all of the essential elements of the discipline. Students are permitted to develop a curriculum tailored to their interests, pending approval by a committee within the department. Students are expected to complete certain prerequisite courses including introduction to film studies. Other required courses include Close Analysis of Film, Film Theory and Aesthetics, Issues in Contemporary Film Theory and studies in international, cultural films. The production seminar courses, theater studies, creative writing and art concentrate on the creative aspect of the film process. An area of concentration is expected to be chosen by each student in history of art, literature, philosophy, social sciences, film theory, productions, race and gender, photography, or national or regional cultures and their cinemas. All students are required to complete a senior essay or project which incorporates all of the knowledge and skills gained throughout the student’s years in the film degree program.

8. University of Pennsylvania

As one of the top ranked Universities in the nation, the University of Pennsylvania is a premier institute of higher learning. The university offers superior degree programs, expert faculty instructors and an advantageous location in the cultural center of Philadelphia. The university has a pioneering history in cinema studies, beginning with controversial performances in the late 1800’s. Cinema studies at the University of Pennsylvania center on the essential areas of history, theory and criticism, but also encompass the vital aspects of production and screenwriting. The University of Pennsylvania boasts among its alumni DreamWorks CEO, former presidents of CBS and Warner Home Video, current president of Columbia Pictures and directors from the renowned Sundance Film Festival; evidence of the quality of its cinema program. The University of Pennsylvania possesses extensive film library within the department from which students are allowed to borrow. Students are offered the opportunity to participate in the study abroad programs which enables them to attend festival screenings or experience the preservation and archiving of the National Film Archive.

Cinema degree programs at the University of Pennsylvania are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students are also offered the option of pursuing the field as either a major or minor course of study and of pursuing a certificate program in graduate studies. Studies incorporate a traditional humanities program framework; studying theory, history and aesthetics. Students will analyze national cinemas, international film movements, legal and political forces governing film industry practices, various film makers and film and media theory. The curriculum for the cinema studies degree programs are interdisciplinary; drawing substantially on a variety of methodological approaches from varying subjects for studying the discipline. Students will evaluate the relationship between film and other various forms of art. Coursework can include such diverse courses as languages and literature, women studies, romance languages, fine arts, communications, anthropology, English and history. Other required and elective courses will include world film history, introduction to film theory, Soviet montage theory, French auteur theory, and a range of enema courses in various cultural areas.

7. University of California – Berkeley

The University of California Berkeley campus is a part of the renowned California University system. Film studies at Berkeley encompass the traditional, historical forms of moving-image as well as the most recent, cutting edge developments in the industry. The degree programs emphasize theoretical and historical analysis of films in humanitarian and interdisciplinary studies context. Students are able to attend the Pacific Film Archive, a highly regarded internationally recognized cinematheque where film makers are able to visit the campus to screen films. Located in one of the cultural hubs of the world, the University of California provides extensive opportunities for students to explore the various aspects and settings of the film industry. The advisers help students develop a plan to ensure all requirements are met and to answer any questions concerning courses and internships.

The students majoring in film studies at the University of California Berkeley have the opportunity to pursue undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Students are also offered the option of pursuing a double major. Students will complete courses including history of silent and sound film, documentary and the avant-garde film, film theory, film genres, introductory film and video production, screenwriting, and a variety of courses centering on specific film makers and various national cinemas. The curriculum develops the student’s skills in analytical thinking, critical thinking, communications and visual literacy. Students also study political science, anthropology, ethnic studies, women’s studies, comparative literature and foreign languages. Hands on production opportunities are sometimes offered as are internship opportunities with local film and video production companies and the Pacific Film Archive and journal Film Quarterly.

6. Columbia University

In addition to being regarded as one of the top ranked national universities, Columbia University is considered one of the premier film schools in the country. At Columbia, the various forms of art, including film, are researched as vigorously as other disciplines. Students together with expert faculty members collaborate on intense and innovative research projects to create and discover new processes and techniques while still adhering to the curriculum studying the traditional concepts of history, theory and criticism. Columbia University adheres to a distinctive perspective of the study; endeavoring to develop unique methodologies from which to view the field. Students learn to and are encouraged to develop their own style and creativity through studying and analyzing the experts from the past and present, learning the history of the field and exploring related disciplines and how they impact and affect the discipline. The intellectual aspects of the field are emphasized as much as the creative.

Students are able to pursue both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in film studies. The curriculum permits students to explore the discipline from varying perspectives. Students can choose a program which focuses on art, technology or even cultural significance. The program includes coursework in the arts and humanities. Students will create a program with the assistance of an adviser comprised of twelve required courses. Courses include introduction to the study and theory of film, auteur studies, genre studies, national cinemas, film theory, lab in fiction film making, script analysis, narrative strategies in screen writing and non fiction film making. Intense concentration on writing, seminars in screenwriting and film making are also part of the curriculum. Internship opportunities with film companies are offered to students. Other opportunities to participate in film projects can be found with the student run film organization.

5. Cornell University

Cornell University, labeled as one of the elite Ivy League schools, offers a long history of excellence in quality education, research and alumni success. The department of Theatre, Film and Dance at Cornell provides flexible degree options with an extensive range of opportunities. Students are afforded the opportunity to take courses in film without committing to the major. The major can be declared in the sophomore year, permitting students the time to decide which course of study they prefer to pursue. The interdisciplinary film studies programs encourage students to explore courses in many other related disciplines including history, romance studies, psychology, anthropology history, German studies and Asian studies. The Cornell Cinema Exhibition is an opportunity for students to explore and to screen a range of film samplings and participate in film workshops. Guest filmmakers come to the campus to participate in the events. Students are able to joint film making clubs where they can organize screenings of their work and receive funding for equipment and various projects.

The students pursuing a film major at Cornell University are afforded exceptional flexibility in developing their degree programs. Both undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered in film studies. Students can choose to complete a double major with another discipline or to create their own major developed from the film studies curriculum. Students can pursue a program in film studies or film production. Film studies centers on the history, theory and criticism of film. Students examine the various genres of film, the cultural contexts and the artistic and creative aspects. Film production concentrates on creating and developing ideas and learning the various techniques of filming including audio editing, using software tools and video editing. Students study the various genres of film; documentary, animation, narrative and take courses in directing, play writing, screenwriting and acting. All students are required to complete a senior project which provides the opportunity to create and experiment with their own film. The study abroad program allows students to spend their junior year in Paris at the Center for Film and Critical Studies.

4. New York University

The department of Cinema Studies at New York University was one of the earliest departments dedicated to the film discipline. Film studies at NYU concentrate on the traditional areas of history, theory and film aesthetics through interdisciplinary study. The impact of the international and cultural influences on film as well as the technologies and central mediums utilized to produce the finished results are also analyzed. The study of film at New York University isn’t limited to only the traditional scopes though; instead including the areas of video art, online projects and broadcast television. The program is consistently updated to include the various evolving aspects of the discipline, taking into consideration the changing nature of film. The 300 plus instructors within the department are professional artists with extensive experience in the profession. New York University offers an extensive library of videos for the use of its students. The weekly cinematic provides opportunities to participate in film screenings. Located in New York City, NYU provides substantial opportunities for cultural enrichment.

New York University offers a number of degree options in the film major. Students are required to compile and submit a portfolio for admission into some of the major programs. Degree programs include the Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in cinema studies, a double major option with the second major in humanities, social sciences or arts, the Master of Arts in cinema studies or in moving image archiving and preservation and the PhD in cinema studies. Three areas of study are required for the major; core curriculum, small lecture courses in cinema studies and large lecture courses in film aesthetics, directors and genres. The curriculum includes an intensive expository writing requirement, courses in language, literature, dramatic literature, theater history, world through art, foreign language, world cultures and social science courses including journalism and linguistics and a quantitative reasoning and natural science course. The special programs offered at the school to enhance the experience include a study abroad option in places such as London, Prague, Shanghai and Dublin and summer internship opportunities.

3. University of Southern California

The University of Southern California has earned its reputation as one of the top ranked film programs due to its high caliber degree program, central location, extensive resources and expert instructors. The university is dedicated to developing the creative and leadership abilities and skills in students through the study of film and interactive media. The concentration on experiential learning provides ample opportunity for students to gain practical experience. Students create their own short films; assuming the role of camera operators, writers, directors, scriptwriters and exploring the various other critical function of the film industry. The school is located in the cinema capital of the world, Los Angeles; in close proximity to motion picture and television companies. The University of Southern California offers unparalleled state of the art facilities which include sound stages, animation facilities, mixing theaters, digital classrooms, screening rooms, and post-production suites. The award faculty members are working professionals in the field; comprised of directors, screenwriters and a number of other professionals.

The School of Cinematic Arts offers interdisciplinary undergraduate, graduate and doctorate degree programs in the creative field of film. The school is composed of six divisions and includes two research units. Students study the theory and practices of the film industry as well as fields with creative and cultural relevance. The curriculum provides exposure to all aspects of the various mediums of moving video including film, television and interactive video. Students, regardless of their area of focus, study all aspects of the field to develop an inherent understanding of the importance and impact of each and to expand their abilities into other areas. Students are provided with consistent opportunity to implement theory with substantial practice. Concentration areas include critical studies centering on the processes behind creating film and he effect of film on culture and social, political and economic facets of society; film and television production where students concentrate on scriptwriting and storytelling, editing, sound design, producing an directing; animation and digital arts, interactive media, producing program and media arts and practice.

2. University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is a renowned research institution with a highly regarded curriculum. Considered a pioneer in education and research, the University of Chicago is credited with developing programs which have been duplicated across the nation. The college boasts more than 80 Nobel Prize winners among its faculty members and students as well as a Pulitzer Prize winner. University of Chicago has a history in film dating back to the late 1800’s when the institution provided one of the first public viewings of motion pictures. Since these early beginnings, the established Department of Cinema and Media Studies has evolved into a leader in the field. The challenging, interdisciplinary curriculum encompasses the central areas of theory, history and criticism, but also placing emphasis on video production and performance studies. The University of Chicago houses the oldest and most prominent student film society in the nation.

The degree programs offered at the University of Chicago include both undergraduate and graduate programs. The degree programs examine the various cinematic forms and techniques and how cinema is affected by production. Students also analyze the method by which cinema conveys a story. The cinema studies courses will explore the aesthetic perspective of films, film culture and the styles of film. Additionally, the curriculum will include studies in narrative contexts, racial and national identity, transnational media production and circulation, commercial and leisure entertainment forms and consumer culture. Students will concentrate on American films with some examination of European, Russian and East Asian films. The curriculum requires students to complete coursework in general studies as well as cinema. Students take courses in Anthropology, art history, music, history, philosophy, English and Comparative Literature. Students will also be expected to complete a research paper

1. Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University was established in 1873 as a small private institution with ties to the church. Throughout the next century, Vanderbilt University grew exponentially in geographical size, student enrollment and in academic regard. Vanderbilt University has earned membership to the Association of American Universities and has placed among the top twenty private universities in the nation. The private research university possesses numerous degree programs which consistently rank among the top ten in the country. Located in Nashville, Tennessee, students are in close proximity to one of the main a cultural hubs in the nation. The flexible curriculum affords students the opportunity to tailor the degree programs to their educational goals. Alumni of the university boast leadership positions in the industries for which they studied. The University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The interdisciplinary film studies degree programs provides a comprehensive education in the cinema arts. Students learn about the cultural, historical, theoretical and aesthetic aspects of the field. The students learn through academic exploration and practical experience and training. Required courses for the program include film studies, film theory, communication, culture and consciousness, cultural rhetoric of film, culture and society, history of art, America on Film. In addition to the major specific courses, students will be expected to complete general studies courses in communications studies, philosophy, psychology, Asian studies, art, and European studies. In addition to the curriculum, students have the opportunity to participate in the film festivals and contests hosted by the University where they have the opportunity to compete and showcase their work.

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