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Columbia College Chicago
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1. What is the focus of the program?
The focus is on personal expression through writing-producing-directing.
Each student will direct a thesis film.

2. What kind of filmmakers does the school tend to produce?
Experimental? Independent? Studio filmmakers?
We produce all three, but with an emphasis on independent filmmakers.

3. How many candidates annually apply to the program and how many are accepted?
Over 100 candidates apply to our program every year and accept 12-14 students each year.

4. What type of student are you looking for? Is filmmaking experience necessary?
The Graduate Program is looking for talented individuals who have something to say, a creative vision, stories to tell, and the desire to express them in the film or video media.  We also look for qualities such as commitment, maturity, tenacity, self-awareness, and the ability to collaborate.   We welcome people from other fields. Filmmaking experience is not necessary.

5. Does the program incorporate film theory or is it more geared towards production? Do students have to pick a concentration (i.e., screenwriting, directing, theory, etc.)?
The emphasis is on production and directing, but we require courses in history and theory.  There are no concentrations, but students must fulfill 10 elective hours and it is recommended to develop skills in the craft areas.

7. How much access do students have to equipment? What costs are students expected to pick up themselves?
Graduate students have extensive access to equipment. The main costs for equipment used for class projects are covered by course fees, although projects require an additional financial commitment for several production costs such as catering, location fees, permits, props and wardrobe, etc. Some of the costs are offset by our Production Fund and other merit-based award programs available at the college. Most students now own their own computers and obtain digital editing software that is compatible with that in our labs.
8. What facilities are available?
Being the largest film school in the world (measured by number of students), our equipment ranges from traditional film technologies to the newest digital technologies for all phases of production, including animation and advanced digital optical and sound effects.

The School of Media Arts developed a Media Production Center (MPC), which offers state-of-the-art production studios--only one of a few in the Chicago area.  At roughly 40,000 square feet, the Media Production Center features two sound stages, a motion-capture studio and animation lab studios to support film, video, television and interactive media programs including digital studios.

Our classrooms, editing suites, and screening rooms take up almost an entire city high rise building. Our post-production facilities include an Avid Meridian suite of workstations for Documentary classes, several Mac labs, Avid Xpress DV/Xpress Pro suites, Media Film Composer suites, Symphony, 35mm KEM, and an advanced graphics lab.  Other software includes:  Final Cut Pro 4, Photoshop, After Effects, Commotion, Shake.  We also have a Machine Room for several formats for digitizing and duplication, a telecine, and Assistant Editor facilities.  Our Sound Center Facilities include a full foley and ADR stage, 2 mixing stages (5.1 HD), Pro Tools lab with workstations, 4 edit suites, a transfer station with multiple DAT decks, and a full SFX library.  We have a Documentary Center, a lighting stage, two directing stages, and a 250-seat theater for special events and screenings. 

9. Who are some famous alums or students and/or what are some noteworthy projects that have either come directly out of the school or that alums have produced/directed/etc.?

Current thesis student Wonjung Bae won the Gold Medal at the 38th Student Academy Awards for Documentary for her film “Vera Klement: Blunt Edge”. The film was also won a DGA Student Film Award (Woman Category), Best Documentary Short at the Queens World Film Festival, was in the New York Jewish Film Festival, AFI-Discovery Channel SilverDocs, UFVA NextFrame International Student Film and Video Festival, Docutah, Ovation TV Film Contest (Finalist), and the Jewish Eye World Jewish Film Festival. Wonjung also won a Kodak Scholarship for her film “Made in Makanda”.

M.F.A. Alumni:

Navid McIlhargey
started in the mailroom at UTA. He moved on to Revolution Studios company in 2000, and eventually oversaw White Chicks, Peter Pan, and developed the upcoming Zoom's Academy, Black Water Transit and many others. He was with Joel Silver's Silver Pictures in 2004 and has developed many large scale sci-fi and action scripts, including Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, V for Vendetta, and Speed Racer. He was Senior VP at New Regency but was recently appointed President at FilmEngine Entertainment.

Diane Weyermann is Participant Production’s Executive VP of Documentary Production. Projects include Countdown to Zero, Waiting for Superman, Darfur Now, Angels in the Dust, Jimmy Carter from Plains, and Oscar®-winning An Inconvenient Truth. She was formally Director of Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program, 2001-2005.

Hank Chilton was a writer, supervising producer, and co-producer on the television show Nip/Tuck (2004-2011) and is currently writer and producer for TV series Ringer.

Marisol Torres’ debut feature Boricua screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, 2004 and was distributed by Universal.  Marisol made a documentary in Iraq in 2005 and is currently directing episodes of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Law and Order: UK and Sinbad.

Maura Corey is an editor working in Los Angeles on such projects as the 80th Annual Academy Awards, episodes of "10 Items or Less", "Shaq's Big Challenge", "The One: Making a Music Star". She was nominated for an Emmy for her work on a Johnny Carson tribute for the 77th Annual Academy Awards and works as an editor on several TV series.

David McQuillen sold his thesis film, "The Materialists" for broadcast to the Sci-Fi Channel. 

Craig Amendola has worked as a second assistant director on televisions shows American Dreams, Revelations, LAX, and CSI: New York and is currently production supervisor on CSI: New York.

Matt Irvine is Director of DePaul University’s Digital Cinema Program and founder of Bluelight Productions. 

Suree Towfighnia and Courtney Hermann's "Standing Silent Nation" won Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary at the 2008 Sedona International Film Festival, was a nominee in the 23rd International Documentary Association's Distinguished Documentary Achievements Awards Competition, and found nationwide release in the 20th anniversary season of the award-winning PBS Documentary series POV/American Documentary.

Alum Maria Gigante's thesis film "Girls Room" was in Berlin International Film Festival, L.A. Shorts Film Festival, Montreal World Film Festival, and was runner up in MTV's Best Film on Campus 2007.

Jeff Smith's thesis film "The Miracle" has screened across the globe, winning several awards including People's Choice at the European International Film Festival in Paris and Audience Award at the Cinema City International Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Sean Jourdan's An Open Door (Directing III) and The Beekeeper (Thesis), will be distributed by Shorts International, the largest short film distributor in the world and one of the few with an exclusive agreement with iTunes.  They also have a cable channel (Shorts TV) that will show both films in the UK, France, Belgium, and Luxembourg. An Open Door was one the top 5 finalists of Best Filmmaker on Campus Competition (MTVu) and received the CINE, Award of Excellence.

Alumni of the undergraduate film program include Academy Award winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Lincoln, Schindler's List, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., Minority Report, The Terminal, War of the Worlds), Academy Award winning cinematographer Mauro Fiore (Avatar, Training Day, Get Carter ) director-producers George Tillman and Bob Teitel (Soul Food, Men of Honor, Barbershop, Barbershop 2, Roll Bounce) and cinematographers Jeff Jur (Dirty Dancing, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, HBO series Carnivale,) Declan Quinn (Vanity Fair, Cold Creek Manor, In America, Monsoon Wedding.)

10. What is the program cost?
Please view the current tuition rates on Student Financial Services webpage.

For more information on financial matters, please contact Student Financial Services on our Web site or phone 312-369-7140.

11. Does everyone get to do a thesis project, or must students compete against one another to get their projects approved? What are the length requirements for thesis films?

Each student directs a thesis film. The recommended length is 15 minutes and under.

12. How many years is the program supposed to last? How long does it take most students to complete their degree?
There are two years of course work and in the last semester students are in production for their thesis film.  Students should be completing their degree requirements, including the exhibition of their thesis film, within three years.

13. What does the school do to help the students in their careers?
We have screenings in L.A., internships all across the country, and most uniquely, a Semester in L.A. program on the historic Raleigh Studios lot. This location provides invaluable real-world experience. Students are given lot ID badges and enter the gates of the lot everyday just like working producers, directors, stars and craft personnel.

The department has an Internship and Industry Relations Coordinator who works closely with the Chicago Film Office to find internships on feature length film productions and many other opportunities. The Coordinator has created long-standing relationships with local production and post production facilities looking to hire Columbia College Chicago students.  We also have a full-time Alumni Director in L.A. who provides students and alums with industry contacts, settlement help, and coordinates west-coast internships.

For students who wish to combine teaching and filmmaking, we offer specialized Teacher Training course and the opportunity to gain experience by teaching in our undergraduate program.

14. How difficult is it to acquire crew for filmmaking?
We have an undergraduate student body of over 2000 students, where graduate students can recruit crew, particularly in the specialized positions. The undergraduate class concentrates on craft specialities, such as Cinematography, Production Design, Location Sound, Editing, Post Production Audio, Animation, and others. Our Music Department offers a Music Composition for the Screen MFA where our student may recruit composers for their score.

15. Have your students been successful in the film festival circuit?
Our graduate students and alums are screening work as official selections in prominent festivals such as Berlin International Film Festival, Cannes Short Film Corner, Tribeca International Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, Montreal World Festival, L.A. Shorts Festival, Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films, Milan International Film Festival, Taos Mountain Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, DC Shorts, and Big Bear Lake International Film Festival.  We have had several students as finalists, including runner up, in MTV’s Best Film on Campus Competition.

16. What sets your program apart from others? 

• all students direct a thesis film

• diversity of stylistic approach and subject matter, with an emphasis on storytelling

• supportive, cooperative creative environment

• big city resources, including one of the most vibrant theater communities in the country from which to draw actors

• one of the most livable and affordable big cities in the country with excellent public transportation

• a richly diverse student population, both outside and within the program

• a private college administration that emphasizes and strongly supports the arts