Cinema Directing, MFA

Columbia offers one of the few programs in the country that provides you with the opportunity to work with producers from your very first semester and learn firsthand the producer/director collaboration you’ll encounter in professional filmmaking. You’ll develop your own personal style and voice while working closely with aspiring producers, cinematographers, production designers, composers and actors in both Columbia’s graduate and undergraduate programs and throughout the robust Chicago-area arts scene.

You’ll take rigorous coursework in writing, directing and production, with the option to take electives both within Cinema Art and Science and in other departments. This wide-ranging curriculum is designed to prepare you for your short thesis film and for life in the fast-paced, ever-changing industry.

Application Information

What to Expect Your First Year

In August, you’ll take our cinema “boot camp” class Introduction to Cinema Directing, an immersive three-week workshop that covers foundational principles and technical skills through lectures and hands-on demonstrations and exercises. This workshop is deeply intertwined with the workshop for Creative Producing students, as the two programs work closely together.

Over the course of the year, Cinema Directing students and Creative Producing students collaborate to develop several films together—some based on a concept created by the director and some based on a concept conceived by the producer. You’ll have creative control and gain work-for-hire experience. In addition, you’ll deepen your understanding of the industry and film history through graduate seminars and a film screening series. At the end of Fall and Spring semesters, graduate faculty members will constructively critique your work through work-in-progress reviews

What to Expect Your Last Year

In your last year, you’ll work with two thesis advisors to develop and shoot your thesis film.

In Thesis Workshop, you’ll explore your thesis material through individualized rehearsals, previsualization exercises, exploratory shoots, critique and discussion. This exploration of your creative approaches will help you strategize and further develop the script and preproduction for your thesis film, which you’ll direct and screen as part of your thesis requirement.

Real-world Opportunities

What experience will I get outside the classroom?

At Columbia, you’ll have endless opportunities to engage with our active, passionate film community. Here are a few examples of exciting initiatives that take place outside the classroom:

  • Doc Your World—A student-curated festival showcasing documentary works.
  • Cinema Slapdown—One film, two opposing views. Watch a screening of a well-known, polarizing film, followed by a refereed debate between someone who loves the film and another who hates it.
  • FrameWork—A series of student-produced video interviews that allow graduating students to talk about their filmmaking process.
  • University Film and Video Association (UFVA)—For those interested in teaching, we send several students each year to present creative work and participate in this international conference.
  • Film Festivals—Chicago is host to numerous renowned film festivals. Students are encouraged to submit their films as well as volunteer. 
What are my internship options?

We’ll help you find internships that link you to power players in the industry. You won’t just be getting coffee. You’ll be working face-to-face with working professionals who can mentor you and help you find jobs in the future.

See the Career Center website for more information.



Graduate Counselor
David Marts

Ready to Apply?

We’re happy you’re thinking of joining our creative community. We work hard to make our application process as simple and fast as possible, but should you run into any concerns, we're here to help at any time.

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